CSU nursing doctorate pitched by Calif. senator to increase workforce

Cynthia Gomez

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As California faces an increasing need for nurses in the workforce, Sen. Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) has introduced Senate Bill 1288, which would authorize the California State University system to independently award doctorates in nursing practice.

The degree program would require training nurses for advanced nursing practice, prepare faculty to teach in post-secondary nursing education programs and enable professionals to earn degrees while working on a full-time basis.

“California has a critical shortage of nurses, for registered nurses particularly,” said Wendy Gordon, the senator’s spokesperson.

CSU spokesperson Paul Browning said the critical shortage of nurses in California is the result of the state facing a $14 billion budget deficit.

The California Board Registered Nurses said the state of California faced a shortage of about 59,000 full-time equivalent registered nurses in 2007.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger awarded more than $2.7 million to registered nurse training programs on Feb. 15. The funds were made available through the Song-Brown program, administered by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development.

Eighteen California universities and colleges campuses, four of which are CSU campuses, received funding to institute the nursing program.

The governor said he awarded the funding because of his long-term commitment to addressing the state’s shortage of nurses by expanding nursing programs and improving the supply of qualified nurses in California.

But Browning indicates that the nursing programs require sufficient faculty and CSU funding.

“We do have a severe shortage of qualified nursing faculty,” said Wendy Taylor, director of the nursing program at CSUN. “I’ll be anxious to see how will this be funded.”

Robert Rosseter, associate executive director for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, said the latest statistics from the AACN show that qualified applicants were turned away in 2007 from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs due to insufficient nurse educators and resource constraints including scarce funding.

SB 1288 would require the CSU system to seek non-state funding to begin and implement the program.

In a press release from the office of Sen. Scott, he said SB 1288 would enable California to provide students access to affordable, well-taught and high quality nursing programs without requiring them to go out of state or to private institutions, a press release from the senator’s office indicates.

SB 1288 would train future CSU, University of California and California Community College faculty, which would increase the number of nurses who are qualified to teach in the state.

Gordon said, “It’s a boost for higher education.”

Browning said the CSU administration approves of the bill introduced by Scott. He said the CSU does not yet know if some or all CSU campuses would offer the doctorate in nursing practice degree program if SB 1288 is enacted by the governor.

Gordon said Scott has been a strong supporter for the CSU system, as he introduced SB 724, which enabled the CSU system to independently offer the doctorate in education during the Fall 2007 semester.

SB 1288 was introduced to the state senate on Feb. 19. The Senate Committee on Education, which is chaired by Scott, is considering the bill. If passed by the Senate Committee on Education on or after March 21, the state assembly would thereafter hear the bill.

Gordon said the bill would come into effect on Jan. 1, 2009 if Schwarzenegger signs it into law by September.