Why Nurses Are Flocking to California

 In Nurses Weekly

California has a significant edge when it comes to combating the nursing shortage. The state saw about 30,000 more registered nurses move in than out during the first two years of the pandemic, according to a Sept. 19 Los Angeles Times report.

There are two key factors that attract nurses to the state, nurses and industry leaders told the news outlet: workplace protections and high pay. While the state has a high cost of living, it’s also the top-paying state for nurses. BLS data shows the average RN salary in the state is more than $133,000 — 50 percent higher than the national average.

Meanwhile, California is the only state to mandate specific minimum nurse staffing levels across different hospital units, which nurses credit with managing workloads and preventing burnout.

“I don’t know if I could work anywhere else,” Lynsey Kwon, RN, a nurse who recently moved to California from Virginia, told the news outlet.

While working at a Virginia hospital, she said the policy was to have one nurse for every three stroke patients, but more often than not, she was responsible for more patients. Now, after two years as a nurse at a 412-bed hospital in California, Ms. Kwon said she’s never had more patients than what’s mandated in the ratios and makes nearly twice her previous earnings.

Overall, California still has a nursing shortage, but the influx of nurses to the state boosted its nurse population 8.3 percent from 2019, according to a University of California San Francisco report cited by the LA Times. 

Nurse-to-patient ratios continue to be a point of contention between nursing groups and hospital groups nationwide, with hospital officials affirming mandating staffing minimums is not a one-size fits all approach and that they do not take into account team-based nursing models. Several other states on the West Coast have recently adopted their own versions of nurse staffing ratios, which tend to be more flexible by requiring hospitals to establish committees to set their own staffing ratios.

(This story originally appeared in Becker’s Hospital Review.)

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