California scrambles to deal with post-pandemic nursing shortage

California needs more nurses, according to the Registered Nurses Professional Association.

"It is seriously bad," says Allan Kamara, president of the Registered Nurses Professional Association.

This, they say, is a post-pandemic problem: there are too many early retirements and not enough new nurses graduating.

"What I can tell you is unlike any other time, this time nurses are leaving the profession faster than they can get in," says Kamara.

One study by the Hospital Association of Southern California puts the nurse vacancy rate in hospitals at 30%, compared to 6% pre-pandemic.

Santa Clara County's hospital system is faring better.

"We have been working on hiring and training new graduates. We recently had a job fair for our critical care nursing division to help recruit nurses," says Kim Johnson Director of Inpatient Acute Nursing at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

They've also been working on retention strategies. As a result, their vacancy rate went from 11.4%, back down to 7.8%.

"Which is really low compared to the average. And so far it seems like things are working within our system," says Johnson.

Still nursing schools say they need to graduate more students to keep up with demand statewide.
And they need to hire more faculty, but money is a constraint.

"The salary that I make in the hospital is twice as much as what I make working at the college. But I work at the college because it's sort of a way to pay back and help the up-and-coming nurses," says Gardenia Angeles, an instructor at Gavilan Community College.

The nurses union is pushing for a legislative solution to the shortage and there are a few proposals in the works.
They say this is a problem that cannot be ignored.

"Our hope is for someone to do something about this, but it is going to be bad," says Kamara.

So far there appear to be competing views on what sort of legislation could make a difference here. However, there is additional money in this year's state budget, intended to help with nursing school capacity.


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