San Diego nurses rally at state capitol for help addressing worker shortage
San Diego nurses joined hundreds of others Tuesday for a rally in Sacramento that called on lawmakers to help address a nationwide staffing shortage in health care.
About 500 nurses marched on the state capitol, with 66 of them from San Diego County — they included health care workers from Sharp Healthcare, Kaiser San Diego and Paradise Valley Hospital.
"We’re here to let our lawmakers know if they choose not to support this legislation — they’re choosing not to support us," said Andrea Muir, president of the Sharp Professional Nurses Network.
Muir is a union leader and registered nurse with Sharp. She and the United Nurses Associations/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) are calling on the legislature to invest $500 million from 2025 to 2030 in community college nursing schools to increase the number of graduates. UNAC/UHCP members also want to see bills passed that make it easier for high schoolers to enter nursing programs and get students more on-the-job training.
"If there’s holes in our pipeline then we’re going to see surges in unsafe staffing to coincide with those holes," Muir said. "We need a steady stream of nursing students."
A recent nationwide survey found nearly a third of nurses are likely to leave health care due to the pandemic. Unions say older nurses are retiring and some others are burning out.
"Our profession is hitting some bad times and if we don't fix this now — a lot of us will leave the profession," said Lorra Tibayan, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse and union representative from Sharp Chula Vista. "We’re nurses. We’re resilient, but we’re also human and we can only take so much."
Tibayan said nursing school can be expensive and it is important to lower barriers to entry for the next generation. She said everyone will need a nurse at some point in their life, "whether it be (during) good times, when we have labor and deliveries — when you're having a baby — or sometimes with your last breath with hospice nurses."
Assembly Bill 1695 would allow high school students to take a course that allows them automatic entry for an associate degree in nursing at community colleges. Assembly Bill 1577 would require hospitals near community colleges to report the number of nursing clinical placements, if certain benchmarks are not met hospitals could be fined. Assembly Bill 1063 would require annual reviews of nurse to patient staff ratios, something supporters said would bring accountability for hospitals.