Nurse shortage looms in California and nationwide

December 08, 1999

California faces a shortage of registered nurses and needs to increase the supply to keep pace with the rapid growth of the state's population, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Public Policy Institute of California.

Based on California's projected population growth, researchers from the UCSF Center for California Health Workforce Studies estimate an additional 43,000 registered nurses (RNs) will be needed by 2010 and an additional 74,000 by 2020 to maintain a stable ratio of RNs to population.

"These projections may understate future demand for RNs, if California's new RN staffing legislation requires hospitals to increase the number of RNs they employ," said Janet Coffman, MPP, lead author and associate director of the UCSF Center for California Health Workforce Studies, part of the UCSF Center for the Health Professions. "Under this legislation the California Department of Health Services must issue regulations that stipulate minimum RN staffing ratios for hospitals."

The study, published in the December issue of Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, was funded by Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) Bureau of Health Professions, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"Since California is often a bellwether for emerging trends across the United States, this study has significant implications for the future of nursing and patient care," said HRSA administrator Claude Earl Fox, MD, MPH.

"Increasingly, nurses are taking on added responsibilities in providing direct patient care, and we must ensure there are enough registered nurses to meet coming demands."

Approximately 230,000 RNs lived in and were licensed to practice in California in 1996; 77 percent of California RNs were employed in nursing. A majority of RN students in California (84 percent ) received their basic nursing education at public institutions, mainly at community colleges and the California State University system, according to the study.

Large numbers of qualified applicants, said Coffman, are currently turned away from basic RN education programs because of lack of resources such as inadequate budgets to hire faculty and to increase enrollment.

Coffman and co-author Joanne Spetz, PhD, assistant professor at the UCSF School of Nursing and research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California based their estimate of future demand for RNs on projections from California's Department of Finance that the state's population will increase 23 percent between 1998 and 2010 and 40 percent between 1998 and 2020. They estimated the future shortage of RNs by combining an analysis of HRSA's 1996 National Sample survey of Registered Nurses with projections from the Department of Finance. The additional nurses estimated to be needed would be to maintain the state's 1996 ratio of 566 employed registered nurses per 100,000 California residents.

The researchers note that employers need to address the fact that RN wages did not keep pace with inflation during the mid-1990's. In addition, they recommend that employers strive to improve working conditions to recruit and retain more RNs. However, they conclude that employers will need assistance from policymakers.

"Demand for RNs will rise rapidly over the next two decades as the population in California grows. Improvements in wages and working conditions might lead to modest increases in the number of California RNs working in the field and in migration from other states and countries but will not be adequate to meet the state's long range requirements," said Coffman.

To increase the supply of registered nurses in California, Coffman and Spetz recommend: The researchers also recommend increased efforts to improve the ethnic diversity of California's workforce because California's population will become even more racially/ethnically diverse in the future.

"We support a number of programs aimed at increasing the supply of registered nurses in states across the country," said Vincent C. Rogers, DDS, MPH, HRSA associate administrator for health professions. "We will work with California agencies to find ways to address this potential shortage."

The UCSF Center for California Health Workforce Studies analyzes the distribution, diversity, supply and competence of health professionals in California and the impact of federal and state policies on these concerns.

Health Resources and Services Administration is the lead Health and Human Services Agency for improving access to health care for individuals and families nationwide.

University of California - San Francisco

Related Health Articles from Brightsurf:

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

Modifiable health risks linked to more than $730 billion in US health care costs
Modifiable health risks, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, were linked to over $730 billion in health care spending in the US in 2016, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health.

New measure of social determinants of health may improve cardiovascular health assessment
The authors of this study developed a single risk score derived from multiple social determinants of health that predicts county-level cardiovascular disease mortality.

BU study: High deductible health plans are widening racial health gaps
The growing Black Lives Matter movement has brought more attention to the myriad structures that reinforce racial inequities, in everything from policing to hiring to maternal mortality.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

E-health resource improves men's health behaviours with or without fitness facilities
Men who regularly used a free web resource made significantly more health changes than men who did not, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental health of health care workers in china in hospitals with patients with COVID-19
This survey study of almost 1,300 health care workers in China at 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 reports on their mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia and distress.

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.

Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.

Read More: Health News and Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to