Vaccine mandate complicates California's nursing shortage

Many California hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages as the pandemic takes a toll on healthcare workers, and the state's new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers is adding another layer to the issue, CalMatters reported Aug. 28. 

Workers are emotionally and physically exhausted amid the public health crisis, according to the news organization. This is causing more nurses in the U.S., including in California, South Carolina and Mississippi, to leave their profession, retire early or take other assignments. 

While burnout is contributing to shortages of nurses and other workers at hospitals, hospital administrators in California say the state vaccine mandate is also a factor, according to CalMatters

The California Department of Public Health issued an order Aug. 5 requiring workers in healthcare to be vaccinated. 

This order — which applies to workers in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, ambulatory surgery centers and in most other healthcare settings — requires workers to be fully vaccinated or receive their second shot by Sept. 30. 

Workers can apply for  an exemption for religious beliefs or qualifying medical reasons. Exempt workers must meet testing and safety requirements.

Amid the mandate, some traveling nurses are declining temporary jobs in California because they don't want to get inoculated, CalMatters reported. Additionally, hospital administrators expressed concern about some workers potentially leaving because of the requirement.

"One hospital told us they had 474 unvaccinated employees. They did a big education and incentive push. Only 12 people signed up," Lois Richardson, vice president and legal counsel for the California Hospital Association, told CalMatters.

And Eric Cole, corporate senior vice president of human resources for San Diego-based Scripps Health, told the news organization the state's testing requirement has already discouraged some out-of-state, traveling nurses from taking positions in California. 

Other states, including New York, have also announced mandates

Read the full CalMatters report here

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