Eager to work, local nursing school graduates must wait on Sacramento

Jessalyn Anderson, left, and Ashley Salyards are two of the many recent graduates of the Bakersfield College nursing program who have waited months for the state's Board of Registered Nursing to process paperwork for them to start their careers. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Kern County has been identified by the state as having a nursing shortage, but graduates of local nursing programs have been sidelined for months waiting on the state's Board of Registered Nursing to process their applications to take the license exam.

December graduates from Bakersfield College's 100th nursing class say at least one-third of their class has been unable to begin work on account of delays in Sacramento.

Many of the grads say they secured jobs at local hospitals that they will have to surrender because they weren't able to get their license in time.

"It's frustrating. It's so upsetting," said Ashley Salyards. "I feel like it's completely out of our hands."

Newly minted nurses starting their careers at Adventist Health or any of the three Dignity Health hospitals in Bakersfield enter the field in a kind of residency program. The hospitals only start such programs a couple times a year, with dates corresponding to graduations at Cal State Bakersfield and Bakersfield College.

A recruiter for Adventist Health informed us that delays are common at the BRN and frustrating for both students and hospitals.

"We're holding up employees that are going to contribute to our local economy. We're holding up patient care because we can't get the nurses," Pam Thompson said.

Eyewitness News contacted the BRN requesting an explanation for the delays and received the following message:

"The Board of Registered Nursing researched the issue and found it received 42 Bakersfield College applications and the electronic transcripts and processed those in December 2017. Fifteen more Bakersfield College applications were received by the board in January and February. Of those, nine were approved today and six were either deficient or needed further board review," the statement reads. "Out-of-state licensing can take extra time because applicants cannot submit transcripts electronically. Beginning sometime in April, out-of-state applicants will be able to submit those online and this should shorten the licensing process."

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