California Nursing Programs Struggling as Shortages in Nursing Faculty Worsen

According to officials with the California State University (CSU) system, a lack of faculty to train nursing students has further exacerbated the shortage of qualified nurses in the state.

Nurses per capita—or the ratio of nurses to patients—in California is now at 743 nurses per 100,000 people, thereby ranking this state 46th in the nation. And CSU administrators don’t see the problem getting better any time soon.

A Crisis in the Making

Dwight Sweeney, interim chairman of nursing at CSU San Bernardino, highlighted the nursing faculty crisis in California merely by stating the facts: There are more than 1,200 pre-nursing students, with just 108 openings available each year. Last year alone, there were 600 applicants and just 44 spots to fill. “We are turning away people with 3.6 and 3.7 GPAs,” said Sweeney.

CSU Long Beach was no better, receiving 450 applicants for just 82 spots last fall. To put it into perspective, that’s an acceptance rate of just 18 percent. CSU Northridge, for its accelerated bachelors of nursing program, received 300 applicants for just 60 spots.

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Margaret Brady, professor at the School of Nursing at CSULB, reiterated the simple truth: An expansion of nursing programs cannot happen until the faculty is there to handle them. CSU officials say the solution may lie not only with hiring more nursing faculty, but paying the existing ones better.

Where’s the Money?

Keeping faculty members is vital, as there are plenty of reasons to leave, with money being the number-one factor. According to a recent CSU San Francisco survey, the salary for a new nursing faculty member was $70,929 in 2011, compared to an average salary of $89,940 for a registered nurse in the state during the same period.

Missed Opportunities

Many state officials fear that they are turning away the next generation of nurses in droves due to a lack of educational resources, a problem that is playing out in many other states, as well.  The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reported that U.S. nursing schools were forced to reject nearly 76,000 qualified applicants for both bachelor and graduate nursing programs in 2011.  The Association also found that there were nearly 1,200 faculty vacancies during the same time.