NURSING: Programs Face Rising Attrition Rate
In a state with an already insufficient nursing pool, California is producing fewer degreed nurses than ever, the Los Angeles Times reports. Since the adoption of a change in admission policies, the state's nursing programs have been confronted with astronomical dropout and failure rates. In an attempt to avoid discrimination charges, California lowered admissions requirements for nursing programs, allowing both "A" and "C" students equal chance for admission. Students with lower grades now have easier entrance into the programs, leading to more students who are unprepared for the demands and rigors of the coursework, the Times reports. Mary Parker, head of nursing at San Luis Obispo's Cuesta Community College, has seen attrition rise from 3% to 40%. Parker noted that many suicidal students have come to her "flunking out of nursing ... It's the end of their dreams." Interim Dean of Allied Health at Antelope Valley College Sue Albert said of the students, "They can't read at a high school level ... or they have undiagnosed learning disabilities." Students unable to complete their studies put yet another burden on schools -- which have severe space limitations in their nursing programs -- creating an "educational bottleneck." Many nursing faculty express fear that the most qualified students are turned away under the new admissions policy. Sharon Hall, head of the nursing program at Glendale Community College, said of the current situation, "It's very difficult and very frustrating. There has got to be a way to deal with this" (Leovy, 11/23).
Given that the California nursing shortage is growing worse, hospitals in East Bay already are warning the public against the impacts of Gov. Davis' nursing ratio mandate, the East Bay Business Times reports. East Bay nurses argue that the legislation, which has an implementation date of Jan. 1, 2001, will force hospitals with nursing shortages to close or reduce their access to the public. California Nurses Association spokesperson Charles Idelson said, "Our message to the hospitals is relax. This will be extremely beneficial in addressing the problems with the nursing shortage." He added that the law may also encourage nurses who have left the profession to come back to it. But Dorel Harms, vice president of professional services for the California Healthcare Association, disagreed. She noted that 85% of licensed nurses already are working in nursing and that bringing them back is not the issue, because the law may, in fact, close hospitals. "If hospitals can't get nurses, they will be out of compliance. The choice will be to pay a fine or close," she said (Valcke, 11/15).