Colleges are desperately trying to ease the nursing shortage by adding additional spots for qualified applicants and expanding nursing educational opportunities. Pasadena City College, for example, recently added 10 spots to its class, but it still averages more than 500 applications for its 60 available spots each fall and spring. California has begun taking steps in the right direction, nursing advocates say. Last year, Gov. Schwarzenegger committed $93 million in grants to nursing schools to hire educators and increase class sizes. And a recently signed nursing education bill from state Sen. Jack Scott, D-Pasadena, will aim to increase available resources for institutions and pay for nurses going back to school to become teachers.
Experts say many would-be nurses are being locked out of the industry because of stagnation in the growth of nursing-education programs and limited enrollment capacity in existing programs. The 117 colleges and universities statewide with registered nursing programs have reported as many as 100 applicants per opening at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels said Trisha Hunter, executive director of the American Nurses Association of California in Sacramento. While 80 percent of nurses have no more than associate degrees, most teaching jobs at the registered nurse level require a master’s or doctoral degree. There are just 30 bachelor’s programs and seven Masters in nursing programs statewide in California, and many are at more costly private schools.