This report discusses the disturbing shortage of nurses and growing impact on this shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, California’s nursing workforce currently does not reflect the state’s diversity. Although Latinx residents account for 39% of the state’s population, just 10% of California’s Registered Nurses are Latinx. While California was previously on-track to meet the projected demand for nurses, conditions created by the COVID-19 global pandemic prompted a number of nurses to leave the profession—these included nurses near retirement who retired early, as well as nurses earlier in their career who opted to pursue other endeavors. Complicating matters are geographic disparities in the nursing shortages around the state.

This report underscores the critical nature of the nursing pipeline given both the immediate global health crisis, as well as the larger backdrop of California’s aging population. The report notes that, despite consistent increases in the number of qualified applicants to the state’s nursing programs, the number of newly enrolled students has been dropping in recent years.

Recommendations to policymakers include:

  • Growing capacity in nursing by increasing the number of accelerated nursing degree pathways and clinical training sites, and increase compensation and benefits for nursing faculty to ensure nursing programs are adequately staffed;
  • Scaling partnerships between community colleges and CSUs that help students with Associate Degrees in Nursing up-skill to BS in Nursing degrees;
  • Facilitating referrals for qualified nursing school applicants to over-subscribed programs; and
  • Collecting better data on both applicants to nursing programs and California’s current nursing workforce.

This brief, is a follow-up to our previous publication Critical Condition: Prescriptions for Transfer Pathways in the Health Professions a special thanks to the California Wellness Foundation for their support which made these reports possible.

Stay tuned for an upcoming webinar on these reports.