Nursing Shortage In Hawaii Described As Perfect Storm

Published: Feb. 12, 2008 at 10:09 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 13, 2008 at 12:33 AM HST
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By Beth Hillyer

HONOLULU (KHNL)--We continue our month long look into Hawaii's health care issues. Health care professionals agree, not only is there a nursing shortage now, but it's only going to get worse. Many predict by the year 2020, as nurses retire and baby boomers age, we will reach a critical shortage.

The Queens Medical Center on Oahu has more than one thousand nurses. That's a level that will be hard to maintain into the next decade.

"I think our challenge is looking at our nurses in different specialty areas and the fact that we have an aging nursing workforce. And our aging population in Hawaii," said Queen's Nursing Vice President Cindy Kamikawa.

At Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, they too are aware of what some call the perfect storm.

"Last year alone, we were short 960 nurses by the the year 2020, we can be short more than 2500 nurses in the state of Hawaii. That's huge," said Kaiser Chief Nursing Executive Suzann Filleul.

Given this frightening forecast both Queens and Kaiser are proactive about retaining and recruiting nurses.

"One of significant areas that we are challenged with filling our nursing positions in our operating room so we have programs where we can bring in nurses and do training for them," said Kamikawa.

"The nice thing about Kaiser is we do have a wide range of nursing opportunities don't have to work in hospital all of your life," boasted Filleul.

It's not like there aren't young people interested in the field of nursing. The problem is there aren't enough teachers to instruct them.

"Last year alone, we had 524 qualified nursing applicants who could not go to school not accepted into nursing schools because we didn't have the faculty to support that," said Filleul.

This is why nurses are important to every one of us. They are the front-line care givers who really make a difference especially when it comes to cutting down infection rates and complications.

"I think the ramification is the quality of care that is provided to our patients in the setting here at the medical center we need nursing care 24 hours a day 7 days a week to care for our patients and we know that nursing makes a difference, " said Kamikawa.