The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

California Nurse Shortage

Mar 20, 2023

California is facing a severe nursing shortage, according to a University of California-San Francisco study. This study estimated that by the end of 2022, the state was missing around 19,000 full-time nurses. The study also showed that U.S. hospitals were short of about 80,000 full-time nurses nationwide. And the study said this shortage is expected to get worse over time.

One reason for this shortage is that nurses face poor working conditions, including very demanding long hours of work pressure with low wages. So, nurses change careers, retire early, or search for less demanding nursing assignments, resulting in staff shortages. These conditions were made far worse with Covid. And, of course, many nurses died or were debilitated during the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak.

This shortage is compounded by the lack of training programs for nurses. Such training programs require experienced nurses as instructors. Because colleges and universities pay low wages for such teaching jobs, few experienced nurses apply for such jobs, resulting in a shortage of training instructors. As a result, nursing programs admit only a limited number of students.

And many programs that do exist are private, with a very high price tag, reaching $120,000 per program, which most nursing students cannot pay, adding to the shortage.

In late January, to counter the work overloaded by the hospitals, registered nurses at six Southern California hospitals picketed their facilities as part of a nationwide call for increased staffing amid a winter surge of respiratory viruses, and influenza and COVID-19 patients. Nurses in other states—Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, and Texas—joined similar protests.

Rich people run hospitals like any other business, as big cash-making machines. Reducing their so-called “labor costs” by overloading their workers with work, like nurses in this case, increases the profits of these rich people. Only nurses and other hospital workers’ organized action can improve working conditions and wages … and improve the health of patients, as well.