COSTA MESA - In response to Governor Newsom's announcement of the Health Corp initiative which seeks to expand the number of healthcare professionals in California in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator John Moorlach released the following statement:
“While I am thrilled to get medical professionals back into this fight against a deadly virus through the newly establish Health Corps, we need to be more intentional in our action to accommodate thousands of critical nursing students who may not be able to graduate because of rules restricted by the pandemic.
“As I wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, we need to prudently and expeditiously get 14,000 nursing students into the front lines of this battle with coronavirus who may not graduate under the current situation. These nurses are eager to do what they have been training years to do – help people and save lives.
“I am asking the Department of Consumer Affairs and Board of Registered Nursing to use the power granted in the Governor's executive order and adjust the graduation requirements to get these great nurses to work quickly.”
Senator Moorlach had previously called on the Governor to adjust the clinical hour education requirements for California nursing students. Nursing students in their final year of school are currently unable to graduate as a result of course cancellations and a strict regulation only allowing 25% of required clinical hours to be conducted in a simulation environment. Adjusting the requirement to 50% could allow an estimated 14,000 nurses to become licensed and treat patients immediately.
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Newsom acts to increase number of health workers in California but some say his order doesn’t go far enough
MARCH 31, 2020
By Ashley A. Smith
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday encouraged thousands of medical, health and nursing students across the state to join the state’s new Health Corps initiative to help the state fight the effects of the coronavirus. Newsom launched the initiative Monday to increase the number of health care professionals needed to fight the pandemic which is expected to surge in upcoming weeks.
“If you’re a nursing school student or a medical school student, we need you,” Newsom said.
Newsom said the state could add about 37,000 healthcare workers, including those who are retired and students. To help them join the workforce, Newsom signed an executive order allowing state licensing boards to waive some of their requirements and decide how they would issue temporary licenses.
But the creation of the new Corps and Newsom’s call to action doesn’t completely resolve an issue that could delay up to 14,000 nursing students from graduating and getting into the workforce just when the state needs them.
Some students and instructors, who have been eager to answer the state’s call to help stop the spread of the virus wanted the governor to go a step further and order the California Board of Registered Nursing to temporarily change its policy on clinical rotations to allow them to graduate on-time or ahead of schedule.
One solution offered by nursing instructors and students across the state would be lowering the percentage of clinical rotations conducted with patients from 75 percent to 50 percent. Students would complete the other 50 percent of their clinical practice through what are called “virtual simulations,” which recreates the health care situations and incidents online, especially since many campuses have moved their in-person instruction online. Current regulations allow 25 percent of clinical rotations to be completed with simulations.
Newsom’s order allows the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the nursing board, to waive licensing requirements and change the scope of practice of healthcare professions through June 30. The department must work with each licensing board to determine exactly what will change.
But Sharon Goldfarb, dean of health sciences at the College of Marin in Kentfield north of San Francisco and president of the northern division of the California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, said the nursing board is not acting quickly enough. “We appreciate Gov. Newsom’s initial response but what he’s done is put the power in the (nursing board’s) hands and they’re not doing anything,” she said referring to the waivers.
Goldfarb, who has been contacting state lawmakers and the nursing board to make changes, said the board has been slow to act.
“I don’t know what we can do but go back to writing legislators and getting students to be politically active. But we’re on a timeline. Our semester is ending.”
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, called the Health Corps a “critical first step,” but it is essential the consumer affairs department eases barriers for medical professionals wanting to help with the coronavirus response, he said.
“I sent a letter last week requesting the California Board of Registered Nursing adjusts its strict clinical hour graduation requirements for nursing students,” he said. “Until this issue is fully resolved, I will continue to monitor the situation and work to ensure the bureaucracy does not get in the way of patient care.”
It’s not immediately clear what effect being in the Health Corps will have on medical and health students who are nearing graduation, or when they would be able to complete licensing requirements.