Yasith Weerasuriya Talks About Training Nurses for an Aging Population

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Stanbridge University President, Yasith Weerasuriya, talks about the impact of an aging population on nurses who are training to care for them as well as how Stanbridge University graduates are poised to take advantage of those opportunities nationwide.

In a 2021 report, the Center for Health Workforce Studies at Rutgers University predicts that registered nurses in California will be in short supply by 25 percent.

“We’re expecting 500,000 vacancies in California alone,” said Weerasuriya, President of Stanbridge University in Irvine and Los Angeles. “Aging baby boomers are putting a lot of pressure on the healthcare industry.”

When you look at projections of how many jobs will be created in this area, Weerasuriya explained that there’s already a shortage of nurses today.

“We need to produce more than 40,000 nurses each year just to keep up with demand,” he said, projecting that number to increase to about 60,000 by 2020.

In Southern California, there are approximately 14,445 practicing nurses and another 2,976 job openings for registered nurses each year, according to the Medical Board of California. In 2015-2016 alone, Stanbridge University produced more than 780 graduates with degrees in nursing and physical therapy.

“Our mission is to train students for careers in high-demand areas,” said Weerasuriya. “There’s a great need for healthcare workers in general, but our mission is to train people specifically for these jobs.”

As the population ages, there will also be a greater need for occupational therapists to help the aging population remain independent. With a projected shortage of 1,600 occupational therapists in 2020, Weerasuriya said that Stanbridge University is also poised to fill this gap.

In addition, the Veterinary Technician Career College at Stanbridge University produced more than 330 graduates last year, with more than 100 jobs already lined up for graduates.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Weerasuriya. “The demand is driving us to grow.”

Weerasuriya sees taking advantage of this gap as an opportunity for Stanbridge University graduates to provide valuable service and gain professional experience at the same time.

“Companies are looking for people with experience, but they’re hard to find,” he said. “With students graduating from Stanbridge, we’ve already established that there’s a certain skill set that they have.”

Statistics project that the United States will need more than one million healthcare workers by 2020.

“What’s exciting to see is that our graduates are already getting these jobs,” said Weerasuriya. “This lack of people in these fields is creating opportunities. So our graduates are getting recruited before they even graduate.”

What an Aging Population Needs 

“The needs of an aging population are very different,” Weerasuriya said. “There’s a need for hands-on healthcare, but there’s also a huge mental health component.”

Weerasuriya sees nurses as being uniquely qualified to address these issues.

“Nurses have a unique ability to analyze and take care of the larger health system,” he said. “They see how everything works together.”

That kind of human-focused, holistic approach will be more crucial than ever as the population ages, Weerasuriya said.

“An aging individual has a lot of mental health issues,” he said. “They need to feel loved and cared for, but they also have a lot of medical needs.”


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