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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Report: California Faces Nurse Shortage Despite Increase in Graduates

The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency has released a report finding that California currently has 647 registered nurses for every 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 825 RNs per 100,000 people, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The report also found that:

  • 9,580 RNs graduated last year, a 55% increase since 2005; and
  • More than 23,500 students currently are in California nursing programs, a 69% increase over the past four years.

Of California's 131 RN programs, 23 opened during the past four years.

Although urban hospitals in recent years have increased their nursing staff, many rural areas still face a critical shortage of RNs, Anette Smith-Dohring, work force development manager for Sutter Health's Sacramento Sierra region, said.

The report was conducted on behalf of the California Nurse Education Initiative, a five-year, $90 million program to increase the number of nurses in California.

When California established the initiative in 2005, the state faced a shortage of about 10,000 nurses annually, officials said.

California officials say the state will need to train more than 206,000 additional health care workers by 2014 to meet increased demand stemming from population growth.

In May, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would create a federal work force initiative to address the nursing shortage. The legislation would establish required nurse-to-patient ratios, similar to California's 1999 mandate, and provide stipends to nursing students working at clinics or other health centers (Calvan, Sacramento Bee, 6/3).