California has become an attractive destination for nurses seeking higher salaries and progressive policies, in contrast to the state’s recent loss of residents due to the high cost of living. Registered nurses in California earn an average of over $133,000 per year, 50% more than the national average. The top 10 metro areas for nurse pay in the United States are all located in California, with the Bay Area leading the way with an average annual salary of nearly $165,000.
In addition to high salaries, California’s liberal policies, regulations, strong unions, and generous healthcare systems have helped attract nurses and combat the nursing shortage that many other states are facing, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. California is the only state that mandates minimum nurse staffing levels in hospitals, ensuring that nurse-to-patient ratios are maintained in every department. These ratios have helped reduce heavy workloads and prevent early retirements or burnout among nurses.
Nurses from other states have found working in California to be a refreshing change. Lynsey Kwon, a registered nurse who recently moved to California from Virginia, expressed how the mandated ratios have made a significant difference in her workload. In Virginia, she often had to care for more patients than recommended due to understaffing.
Between 2020 and 2022, approximately 30,000 more registered nurses moved into California than left for other states. Despite this inflow, California still faces a shortage of experienced registered nurses. However, the positive influx has contributed to an 8.3% increase in California’s registered nurse population from 2019 to 2021.
California’s success in addressing the nursing shortage has inspired other states to adopt similar staffing requirements. Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York have passed legislation regarding minimum nurse-patient ratios, and more than a dozen other states are considering similar measures. However, the nationwide nursing shortage means that increasing staffing in one state may exacerbate the need in others.
The nursing profession has faced numerous challenges in recent years. Many nurses have left bedside nursing due to the pandemic, opting for jobs in doctors’ offices, clinics, or as case managers. Older nurses have also chosen early retirement, contributing to a lower median age for nurses nationwide. Nurses have reported feeling unappreciated by patients and hospital administrators, leading to more frequent nurse walkouts.
Overall, while California’s high salaries and progressive policies have helped attract nurses, there is still a pressing need to address the nursing shortage on a national level and ensure that nurses feel valued and supported in their careers.
– Los Angeles Times: Nurses flock to California thanks to high salaries, liberal policies
– UC San Francisco Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies: California’s Nursing Labor Market during the COVID-19 Pandemic