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What Shortage of Nurses? In California, We May Have Too Many

The number of young registered nurses entering the workforce more than doubled in the past decade. (photo: Krissy Clark/KQED)

The number of young registered nurses entering the workforce more than doubled in the past decade. (photo: Krissy Clark/KQED)

From the 1980s to the 2000s, the number of young people going into nursing schools plummeted — both nationally and in California. To reverse the trend, the government launched recruitment efforts to to spur more people to go into nursing.

It looks like they did a pretty good job. The number of registered nurses nationwide skyrocketed in the past decade, according to a study released in today’s Health Affairs. Recent grads aged 23-26 increased by 62 percent. There hasn’t been a spike in nursing grads like this in the U.S. since the 1970s.

There hasn’t been a spike in nursing graduates like this in the U.S. since the 1970s.

And it’s no different in California. Nursing school enrollments have doubled in the past decade, says Joanne Spetz, a nursing professor at UCSF and co-author of a UCSF report looking at California’s nursing forecast. The report shows that in the past five years, the number of California nursing graduates has doubled. Spetz says that’s because California also made huge efforts to recruit nursing students, like implementing accelerated degree programs.

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