Potential nursing students turned away amid California nurse shortage


For Li Wang, explaining why she wants to become a nurse is easy.

"When I help people, I feel happy. And people get so appreciative of my help," said Wang.

But getting into a nursing program in California is far more challenging.

"It's very competitive, so for us, like about 10 applicants can get into the program," said Wang.

The first-year nursing student at Cal State Los Angeles says she knows that nurses are in high demand. And that demand is especially true in California, which ranks among the states that is most in need of new nurses. Making matters worse is a lack of faculty to train students.

"We have capped our undergraduate program at a certain number of slots, so we admit to that," said Cynthia Hughes, the director of the nursing program at Cal State L.A. "The bottleneck is the huge applicant pool who are applying and can't get in, and then they have to choose other majors."

Finding qualified professors and instructors is part of the problem.

"We do want to build up our junior levels of faculty as well as our senior levels," said Hughes.

Adding to the problem is that professionals in this field can sometimes make less money teaching future nurses than they could if they were nurses.

The average salary for a nurse in California is $89,940, and the average pay for someone teaching future nurses is $70,929.

"It's a good salary, so it's attractive to many people. And of course, people are also attracted to the service," said Hughes.

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