How California is getting more nurses to move here amid a population exodus

A woman stands wearing a purple top and pants and a dark jacket.
Lynsey Kwon, 27, works as a registered nurse at Pomona Valley Hospital in Pomona.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Thursday, Sept. 21. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

  • How California is getting more nurses to move here
  • Councilmember Kevin de León says he’ll run again
  • A pristine swimming hole near L.A. has blown up on TikTok. Is it worth the hype?
  • And here’s today’s e-newspaper

Why nurses want to work in California despite the population exodus

California has fewer Californians these days as the state experiences an exodus of hundreds of thousands of residents, driven by remote work and the costs of living.

But one group of workers has been increasingly moving to the Golden State in recent years: nurses.


As Times reporter Don Lee writes, “what’s drawing them to the state is not so different from why others are leaving.”

“California’s famously expensive lifestyle has driven away many residents in search of cheaper housing and lower taxes,” he explained. “But for highly sought nurses, that’s translated into the biggest salaries in the nation.”

Don spoke with Joanne Spetz, director of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at UC San Francisco, who estimates that about 30,000 more registered nurses moved into California than out of state between 2020 and 2022.

“No other state comes close in pay, a reflection of the strong unionization of nurses, competition from Kaiser Permanente, as well as California’s high living costs,” Don noted, citing federal labor data showing that the top 10 metro areas nationwide for nurse pay are all in California.

One other key factor that makes the state an ideal place for nurses: mandated minimum staffing levels. California is the only state that has enshrined those staffing standards into law. As Don explained:

“Experts say those nurse-to-patient ratios, for every hospital department, have helped reduce the increasingly heavy workloads that are driving many to quit or retire early.”

“What a difference the mandate makes,” registered nurse Lynsey Kwon told Don. “I don’t know if I could work anywhere else.”


Seeing California’s success, a few other states have passed versions of those staffing requirements. Recruiting more nurses is seen as crucial to reverse the national trend of the healthcare workers leaving hospitals, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And although the state is a model for recruiting nurses, staffing problems persist at many hospitals, particularly in rural areas.

Don’s full story is available to Times subscribers here.

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Councilmember Kevin de León at a June City Council meeting
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(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

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For your downtime

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A weekend crowd gathers at Stoddard Canyon Falls and Slide in Mt. Baldy.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Going out

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Staying in

And finally ... from our archives

On Thursdays, we’ll show you something from our archives.

A Los Angeles Times newspaper clipping about the last game played at Yankee Stadium
(Los Angeles Times)

On this day 15 years ago, the historic Yankee Stadium in the Bronx saw its last game before the new stadium opened across the street. After opening in 1923, it was the scene of scores of Major League Baseball’s most famous moments, including Babe Ruth’s first home run in the stadium on April 18, 1923.

The Times’ David Ulin documented his last trip to the old stadium, which triggered a flood of nostalgia as he had been going there for 40 years.

Have a great day, from the Essential California team

Ryan Fonseca, reporter
Elvia Limón, multiplatform editor
Kevinisha Walker, multiplatform editor
Laura Blasey, assistant editor

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