Senator Hurtado Introduces Bill to Deter the Outsourcing of Investments in Nursing Education from Students Outside the Region to Those Within the Region

SACRAMENTO, CA – Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Bakersfield) recently introduced legislation to broaden the admission criteria for registered nursing programs in community college districts by allowing districts that have opted for multi-criteria screening measures to evaluate candidates for admission to include individuals from Medically Underserved Areas. The bill, Senate 1183, takes a significant step towards ensuring that nursing programs are more inclusive, addressing regional healthcare disparities, and cultivating a healthcare workforce that is better equipped to serve diverse and underserved communities.

“The Central Valley grapples with healthcare disparities, such as the burden of longer travel distances for access. We possess the local talent, eager to address our region’s needs, but must equip them with resources and support,” said Senator Melissa Hurtado. “This bill aims to empower our Valley’s students, investing in their potential to bridge this gap.”

"College of the Sequoias (COS) faces a critical challenge in meeting the local demand for nurses as the majority of RN program applicants come from outside the Central Valley. The local hospitals are frustrated by continuing to invest in out-of-area students who leave post-graduation and seek the ability to prioritize clinical placements for candidates committed to staying,” said Jennifer La Serna, Vice President of Instruction at College of the Sequoias. As COS expands its nursing program in collaboration with the hospitals, exceptions must be made in the legislation to allow priority for students from the local area. The college aims to balance regional needs while navigating legal constraints, ensuring a steadfast commitment to addressing the Central Valley's healthcare workforce demands."

“It is well known that the Central Valley of California is an area most challenged with healthcare employee staffing shortages, most notably with the position of Registered Nurse. Kaweah Health in Visalia, CA, is a health care system with 5,000 employees, of which there are 1,000 RN’s. Despite significant recruitment and retention efforts, we continue to have over 200 open RN positions. As all other hospitals do, we supplement with very expensive premium pay for our staff as well as supplement with contract traveler RN’s.   

With the help of the College of Sequoias, we identified that COS, our local community college, cannot legally give preference to local students interested in nursing careers, and as a result, COS had and has many students from out of the area.  Kaweah Health supports these students with clinical rotations and completion of their requirements, knowing that they will not stay in our area, but will return home.  This causes great frustration as there are many local students that cannot get into a local nursing program in order to grow and stay in our area,” said Dianne Cox, Vice President of Human Resources at Kaweah Health. “Thank you to the legislators for their support to provide COS the ability to focus on our local students, giving them the chance to grow into the careers they desire and we all need.”

Strengthening the ties between community colleges and local workforce areas can have a positive impact on regional economic development as college graduates find employment locally, and are more likely to invest in the community, while stimulating local economic growth.