PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

More than 50 percent of nurses are close to retirement, according to the American Nurses Association. As the Affordable Care Act rolls out, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 1.2 million more nurses will be needed nationwide by 2020.

California ranks among the states most in need of new nurses.

"As the economy gets better, nurses will retire and cut back hours. Other nurses need to be trained to be able to take over," said Mary Anne McCrea, Chief Nursing Officer at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.

However, getting into California State University nursing programs isn't easy. To make matters worse, shorter curriculum and a lack of funding to pay faculty to actually train students.

"There's fewer and fewer instructors and also fewer people helping them train at the bedside," said McCrea.

To help, Desert Regional Medical Center offers the Versant nursing residency program.

"It's a great opportunity to get that expertise and come in and get that knowledge from expert nurses," said McCrea.

While the demand for new nurses grows, it takes a toll on the current workforce including long hours, stressful conditions, fatigue and medical errors, which could jeopardize patient quality.

"In order for us to keep moving forward in health care, it doesn't matter what setting,  It's got to be patient focused."