Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Golden State Responds to Shortage of Health Care Professionals

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Golden State Responds to Shortage of Health Care Professionals

Article excerpt

With the lowest number of registered nurses in the nation, a California program aims to fill gap through a number of diversity initiatives.

California has the most severe nursing shortage in the country, according to a recent survey, but more minorities are on track to fill the gap because of a diversity initiative funded by The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation based in Los Angeles.

At 589 registered nurses per 100,000 residents, California has the lowest number of registered nurses in the nation, according to a 2004 national survey conducted by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. The national average is 825 registered nurses per 100,000 residents, the survey indicates.

A new report on the $10 million Nursing Workforce Diversity Initiative, which targeted Hispanic, Southeast Asian and male students for entry into nursing, shows promising results just as another of the foundation's initiatives, the California Dental Pipeline Program, is under way to help minority students prepare for dental careers.

The nursing initiative, which began in 2002, sought to increase student enrollment at public nursing programs in California's Central Valley, a region with the worst nursing shortage in the state, officials say. Nursing school representatives have reached prospective students through health fairs, conferences and regional community events, says Angela Minniefield, interim executive director of the Sacramento-based Health Professions Education Foundation. As an added incentive, the endowment and health foundation have provided more than $1 million in scholarships to students who have agreed to practice in underserved areas of the Central Valley region.

As a result of the nursing initiative, enrollment in nursing programs at area community colleges has increased by more than 60 percent overall, and minority student enrollment has increased by 13 percent, says George Zamora, a program associate for The California Endowment. While the project is in its final stages, officials have worked aggressively to maintain relationships with area schools and community-based organizations in hopes of attracting more minority applicants. The current racial makeup of the nursing work force in California is 63.9 percent White; 6.3 percent Hispanic; 3.8 percent African-American; 21.9 percent Asian and 4.1 percent other, adds Zamora.

"The (nursing) initiative produced additional nurses of all colors and increased the number of male students who are pursuing nursing," says Zamora, who adds that California State University-Bakersfield currendy boasts the highest number of male nursing students in the nation thanks to the initiative's recruiting efforts. …

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