BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As the nation sees a shortage of nurses at such a critical time in public health, California State University, Bakersfield received $6 million Monday to help grow their nursing program.
Kern County has been designated an area of critical primary care need by state standards. For example, for every 24 hundred patients, there is only one physician. University officials are hopeful this program can make a change.
How bad is the nursing shortage in Kern County?
“A significance in the number of nursing students that will graduate immediately and sent out into the community,” said University President Dr. Lynnette Zelezny.
Zelezny said what they need is more students. But the problem is not lack of local talent, but rather lack of staff.
Just this year 147 qualified applicants were denied entry to the program because of this issue.
Now, this state fund will be used to eliminate that problem.
“It is going to hire new faculty members that will allow us to recruit more nursing students,” said Zelezny.
About 70 percent of CSUB graduates continue to live and serve in Kern County, one of those students is nursing program chair, Yamilette Iniguez. Born and raised in Bakersfield, she is a first-generation student and the first in her family to go into the medical field. She said her goal is to stay in Bakersfield and continue serving her community, something she was able to do during this pandemic.
“I don’t think anything could have prepared us for COVID, it is just so different it is so difficult. But I wouldn’t have changed it, I want to be part of that help that there is available,” said Iniguez.
Assemblymember Rudy Salas who spearheaded the funding said it is important to invest in the central valley.
Kern County ranks 52 out of 57 in overall health outcomes and ranks last in management of chronic health outcomes like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
“The reason we chose Cal State Bakersfield is because we know Cal State Bakersfield not only serves the central valley and the entire population, but it really focuses on those rural areas and all of Kern County but just all of the central valley and particularly all of our different populations,” said Salas.
Zelezny said they will be beginning to look for new faculty starting Monday and are ready to begin using the funds to increase the number of healthcare providers in our area.