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Licensing Logjam For California Nurses

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Sacramento, CA, United States (KaiserHealth) – Lara Golden, who recently earned a Master of Nursing degree from the University of Virginia, applied for her California license on April 13. She had postal receipts, but when she called the board in June they couldn’t find her paperwork. So she flew from Virginia to California to submit a second set of fingerprints in person. Seven weeks and many phone calls later, Golden is still uncertain when her application will be reviewed.

Fremont resident Angel Li received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Washington State University in Spokane in May. She submitted an application to the nursing board on March 15. After hearing nothing for 12 weeks she, too, started calling the agency.

“I kept waiting and waiting and calling back, which is not an easy task,” she said. “Sometimes they just hang up due to the high call volume.”

In May, Li said she had a promising interview for a pediatrics position at a Southern California hospital. The manager wanted to hire her, but said she couldn’t move ahead until Li had a license.

Golden is supposed to start a residency program at a UC hospital but fears she won’t have her license in time.

“I have people calling me crying,” said Kathy Harren , regional chief nursing officer at Providence Health and Services, Southern California. “We have positions for them, but we can’t let them in without licenses in hand.”

Nancy Blake, critical care services director at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, said that as of Aug. 9, 22 nurses out of the 57 her hospital has hired for its nursing residency program, which starts September 26, still had not been cleared by the nursing board to take the licensing exam. Under normal circumstances, only two or three candidates would not yet have taken the test by this point in the summer, she said.

Blake, who hit roadblocks while renewing her own license earlier this year, worries that young nurses will get discouraged — and that hospital staffing will suffer. “A lot of the boomers are retiring,” she said. “I believe we’re on the cusp of a nursing shortage.”

A 2014 survey by the state nursing board acknowledged as much, reporting that nearly half of California’s nurses were over 50 and that many younger nurses were having trouble getting work. It is “essential that recently graduated RNs find employment opportunities so they are prepared to take on the roles of retiring RNs,” the report urged.

Susan Odegaard Turner, founder of Turner Healthcare Associates, a consultancy in Thousand Oaks, said California now has more of the newly trained nurses it needs but still has not solved the problem.

“We got more nurses. But now they can’t get their license,” Turner said. “This is a different kind of shortage. We’ve produced them, but they’re not working.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline , a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

– Provided by Kaiser Health News.

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