The Status of Nursing Education in the California Community Colleges

General Concerns
Educational Policies Committee

The nursing shortage in California has prompted legislators to propose solutions that may be well intentioned but fail to recognize the complexity of the issues they are trying to address. In April 2005, the Academic Senate convened a nursing task force, comprised of community college nursing faculty from across the state, to examine the issues raised by outside groups, respond to these issues, and provide possible remedies. The task force organized the information collected around six questions: (1) What are the barriers to recruiting nursing students? (2) What are the barriers negatively impacting nursing education on the campuses of California Community Colleges? (3) What are the barriers making it difficult for students to complete their course of study? (4) What makes clinical placement for nursing students so difficult? (5) Why do students leave nursing programs? Why is there such a high attrition rate? (6) Once students complete their studies and enter the profession, why do so many nurses leave within a short period of time?

The responses and possible remedies reflect the diversity in nursing programs across the California Community College System and the complexity of trying to find single solutions that work for all colleges. In some areas, there is general agreement, such as the need for adequate numbers of full-time faculty to provide supervision and participate in program development, or the challenge of finding adequate slots for clinical placements. In other areas, responses differ greatly, as with respect to enrollment criteria and use of the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) Model Prerequisites Validation Study (Phillips, 2002). The remedies proposed in the paper are those of the task force and not official positions of the Academic Senate. The paper concludes with recommendations that echo longstanding positions of the Academic Senate within the context of nursing education in the California community colleges.


In response to questions asked by legislators and others, this paper has presented an in-depth discussion of the current nursing shortage and the complex inter-relationships between factors influencing that shortage. The inclusion of possible remedies identified by community college nurse educators from across the state in this paper does not necessarily indicate endorsement by the Academic Senate. However, the Academic Senate has adopted positions on many issues germane to this discussion of nursing education in the community colleges, and those positions are reaffirmed here.

  • Given the broad distribution and discussion of the Phillips Associate Degree Nursing: Model Prerequisites Validation Study and the attendant system advisory Advisory on Use of "Model Prerequisites" for Enrollment in Associate Degree Nursing Programs, the Academic Senate makes the following recommendations:
    1. That all campuses carefully apply the validation criteria to local enrollment criteria to ensure that access and diversity are not compromised;
    2. That all local programs perform local validation of enrollment criteria and their bearing on student success;
    3. That a future study be conducted that evaluates the descriptional and situational factors mentioned in the study.
  • The Academic Senate reiterates the need for increased funding for student services, including counseling, tutoring, and financial aid, all of which are vital in assisting students to successfully complete enrollment criteria for nursing programs.
  • The Academic Senate reaffirms its commitment for professional development funds for all faculty, with obvious application to the interdisciplinary conversations essential among nursing, English, ESL, biology and mathematics faculty.
  • The Academic Senate reiterates the need for increased resources to collect data and perform analyses needed to clearly identify student needs and follow-up on student success.
  • The Academic Senate reaffirms its support for a commitment from the state to well-paid full-time faculty positions in nursing and the longstanding 75:25 goal, necessary for the coordination of nursing programs and the support for students in those programs.
  • The Academic Senate reaffirms its commitment to ensuring the broadest opportunity in nursing programs in order to graduate nurses that reflect the diversity of California.