UH turning away
The school's inability to take on
new faculty results in 273 rejected
A shortage of faculty is forcing University of Hawaii nursing programs to turn away qualified applicants who could help ease severe nursing shortages expected in coming years.
Julie Johnson, dean of the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, said the UH system rejected 273 qualified applicants for undergraduate studies last fall because it had no money for additional faculty.
The UH-Manoa program had 150 eligible candidates and could accept 50, including 10 in an accelerated program.
In six years, Hawaii is expected to have a shortfall of 2,267 registered nurses, Johnson said. Hawaii has 10,000 licensed registered nurses, but how many are employed in the state is not known, she said.
Like other states, Hawaii is grappling with an aging population and more serious patients, an aging nursing work force, and faculty and nurses retiring or taking less stressful jobs.
Although there is great interest in nursing careers, Johnson said, "the bottleneck nationwide is the faculty."
State nursing boards set faculty-student ratios, which in Hawaii is one faculty member for every 10 undergraduate students and one to five or six graduate students, she said.
The nursing programs have appealed for an increase in faculty positions and salaries, Johnson said.
The UH school has about 274 undergraduate students and 100 graduate students, 35 faculty members and a number of lecturers who teach courses, said Lois Magnussen, director of student services.
An additional 10 faculty positions would be needed to take all eligible candidates for Manoa's nursing program this school year, she said.
The University of Hawaii and the Queen's Medical Center are "ahead of the curve" in dealing with the nursing shortage, said Joan White, co-chairwoman of the Hawaii State Center for Nursing. The center, created last year, is working to improve nurse recruitment and retention.
Hawaii Pacific University and community colleges with nursing programs are operating under the same pressures as the UH system, White said.
Strikes by 1,400 nurses at three Honolulu hospitals last year highlighted professional problems and led to the creation of the center.
Many elements influence nurse retention, Johnson said, citing the need for continuing education and career development, which the Queen Emma Nursing Institute will encourage. The center will receive $7.5 million from the Queen Emma Foundation over five years to expand nursing research education and services.
White said in the past 30 years, Hawaii has had four cycles of either a shortage or oversupply of nurses, and the state center must be aware of forces affecting the peaks and troughs.
But Johnson said: "The shortage will not end as far as I can see. Anyone with a nursing degree will have a job."
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Nursing students mirror
Hawaii’s ethnic diversity
Unlike mainland institutions where most nursing students are Caucasians, Hawaii's enrollment reflects the ethnic diversity of the population, according to the University of Hawaii's School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene.
About 82 percent of UH's 274 undergraduate nursing students this spring were Asian/Pacific islanders. The largest groups were Filipinos, nearly 27 percent; Japanese, 17 percent; mixed Asian, nearly 15 percent; Hawaiians, 12 percent; and Chinese, about 6 percent. Caucasians made up 14 percent of the undergraduates.
Of 105 graduate students, about 47 percent were Asian/Pacific islanders. Officials believe this drop from undergraduates in that category might be due to students getting jobs rather than pursuing graduate work.
The largest ethnic groups among graduate students were Japanese, 18 percent; Filipino, 15 percent; and Hawaiian and Chinese, each about 4 percent. Nearly 45 percent were Caucasians.
Also represented with small percentages in undergraduate and graduate programs were Hispanics, blacks, Koreans, Samoans and other Pacific islanders, Vietnamese, Laotians and other Asians.