Monday, June 15, 2009

Recession Prompts California Nurses To Delay Retiring, Shortage Looms

 Nurses are opting to delay retirement during the ongoing recession, potentially delaying a significant upswing in California's nursing shortage, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The California Institute for Nursing and Health Care reports that the average age of working nurses in the state is 47, with 45% older than age 50.

Although many nurses have chosen to postpone retirement during the downturn, economic recovery could spur a sudden wave of departures from the profession, the Bee reports.

Low Supply, High Demand

A 1999 state law established mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios, which increased California's demand for nurses.

The demand is expected to remain high, particularly as the aging baby boomer population seeks more health services.

In addition, expanded health care coverage could drive even more people to seek health care in the state, especially if the six million uninsured Californians gain access to health coverage.

Nursing Schools Struggle To Keep Up

Many schools lack the capacity to accept all students applying to their nursing programs in part because schools often encounter difficulty in recruiting teachers, who would receive lower salaries as nursing instructors than as working nurses.

To address these challenges, California in 2005 invested $90 million in a five-year program to expand nursing programs statewide.

Officials said the program increased the work force to 647 registered nurses per 100,000 people, up from 589. However, California still lags behind the national average of 825 registered nurses per 100,000 people.

Officials last month announced that the state would provide $60 million to extend the program for another five years (Calvan, Sacramento Bee, 6/15).