2010 Edition — California Nurses Facts and Figures

Timothy Bates, Healthforce Center at UCSF
Catherine Dower


Close to 300,000 actively licensed registered nurses (RNs) reside in California, making nursing the single largest health profession in the state. in the last 10 to 15 years, nurses’ roles have expanded as they have taken on more responsibility for the delivery of health care. Recognizing the key role that nurses play in providing care to patients across the health care system, legislators have passed nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals, colleges have increased the number of educational programs, and private-sector investments have supported the growth of the profession’s ability to meet demand. This report examines California’s nursing workforce, including supply, education, and demographics.

Key findings include:

  • The number of practicing California nurses nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, outpacing overall population growth. However, California still ranks near the bottom of all states in the number of RNs per capita.
  • Over the last two decades, California’s nursing workforce has grown increasingly diverse; the percentage of non-white nurses has nearly doubled to compose more than 40 percent of the workforce. However, the workforce still does not reflect California’s general population, as a large part of the non-white growth is made up of foreign-trained nurses from the Philippines.
  • Over the past decade, California has seen significant growth in the number of RN educational programs and graduates.
  • Between 2004 and 2008, the number of nurse practitioners (NPs) in California more than doubled. The NP credential is the most frequently held advanced practice certification.
  • RN incomes increased by more than 50% from 1990 to 2008, significantly outpacing inflation.
  • Since 2000, the number of licensed vocational nurse (LVN) educational programs in California has more than doubled to over 200, driven by the proliferation of private, for-profit programs. LVN employment per capita increased slightly.

The full report is available for download below. This material is part of CHCF’s California Health Care Almanac, an online clearinghouse for key data and analyses describing the state’s health care landscape. See our entire collection of current and past editions of California’s Health Care Workforce.