Program aims to relieve nurses shortage on Neighbor Islands by recruiting homegrown talent

The shortage of nurses during the pandemic is perhaps felt most on Neighbor Islands, but there’s an effort to train more staff in their own communities.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 29, 2021 at 6:07 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Nurses on the Neighbor Islands have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic’s shortage of health care professionals.

But now, there’s an effort to train more nurses in their own communities.

About a third Hawaii’s nurses work on the Neighbor Islands, designated as rural for health care services and providing care in their own tight knit communities.

“The nurses and the care team are becoming traumatized as they provide care and still they are staying,” said Laura Reichhardt, director of the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.

Lisa Rantz, president of the Hawaii State Rural Health Association, said the patients coming in are “family members. They are neighbors. Your son’s classmate that he grew up with.

“And they are succumbing to this disease.”

Nearly a year ago, gatherings sparked a large COVID outbreak on Lanai. But rather than cast shame on those infected, the community rallied. “There were so many people that volunteered to make sure the families were accommodated,” said Valerie Janikowski, a registered nurse with Lanai Kinaole.

“I think the fact that you are caring for your community and it’s so tight knit, it has its pluses,” added Carrisa Holley, manager of Healthcare Pathways for Hale Makua Health Services.

Since then, healthcare providers vaccinated the majority of the population and there’s weekly school testing. But there’s still a shortage of nurses.

Lanai has not trained any certified nursing assistants on island since 2016 ― until now.

Thanks to a $13 million grant, Zoom and a multi-agency partnership, future nurses aides are being trained on their island.

“The program was really designed to be a rapid response to the need of our local employers,” said Nicolette van der Lee, of UH Community College’s Hana Pathways Project.

Right now, two cohorts of of nurse aides are being trained on Lanai and Maui.

“That goes to the heart of our communities and growing our own and training them on island so they can move into those career paths,” said Rantz.

For nurse trainer Solange Patrick, of UH Maui College, it is an emotional call to duty.

“The no fear factor because I care and the fact they are just really excited to be there and they want to be trained up to the highest of standards,” she said.

For more information on the training program, click here.

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