Hawaii's nursing shortage turns to surplus - but not for long - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii's nursing shortage turns to surplus - but not for long

Jasmine, a nursing student, checks the breathing of a "patient" Jasmine, a nursing student, checks the breathing of a "patient"
Mary Boland Mary Boland
Stephanie Genz Stephanie Genz
Aric Adaoag runs to a class Aric Adaoag runs to a class

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For years, we've been hearing about a critical nursing shortage in Hawaii. But recently, the prognosis has changed. Now, the state is actually seeing a surplus of nurses.

The quick turn-around took some in the healthcare industry by surprise. It's good for patients, but if you were hoping to easily land a job in the nursing profession right now, the timing couldn't be worse.

The University of Hawaii continues to train and graduate qualified nurses, but what was once almost guaranteed employment in the medical field is now a job of wait-and-see.

UH's Dean of Nursing, Mary Boland, says "It's what we actually refer to as a surge. We have this moment in time where we have more graduates out there than the jobs are there."

What a difference a few years make. In 2007, the Center for Nursing estimated that the state was short about 960 registered nurses. But now, nursing graduates are finding jobs are hard to come by.

The "surge" was caused by a perfect storm of events. Students started applying to school several years ago when nursing shortfalls were first predicted. Then, came the economic downturn, and experienced nurses who were nearing retirement decided to stay on.

"So, we see people who are working longer than they expected to work and henceforth, those jobs haven't opened up yet," says Dr. Stephanie Genz, Dean of Chaminade's nursing school.

But medical experts predict the surge will be short-lived. Chaminade thinks so and even launched its new nursing program in September with state-of-the-art facilities. It expects the job market will open up by 2014 - when their first class of students graduates.

Experts point out that there are actually still nursing shortages in areas like long-term care.

In the midst of this surge, local nursing schools say they're helping recent graduates by crafting what they call "bridge programs" with hospitals - so that graduates can work in jobs other than as registered nurses - until those RN jobs start opening up.

The University of Hawaii's nursing school plans to continue its 600 student level of enrollment, too. But for undergrads, like Aric Adaoag, these are precarious times. "We're all applying for the same jobs," says Aric, "and there aren't that many openings."

Adaoag wants to stay in Hawaii after graduation but says, if he can't find a job here, working on the mainland or even internationally remains an option.


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