Pact with Philippines could reduce isle nursing shortage
Governor Lingle has signed an agreement for nursing faculty exchanges between Hawaii and Philippine institutions.
AN agreement signed by Governor Lingle and the governor of the Philippines' Ilocos region to provide faculty exchanges in nursing programs
is aimed at the crux of Hawaii's nursing shortage. The agreement and its possible expansion could play an important role in preventing what looms as a medical emergency.
Near the end of her eight-day visit to the Philippines, Lingle signed an agreement with Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis Singson to improve the faculty and curriculum at the University of Northern Philippines, where nearly 20 percent of the students are studying nursing. If the agreement works, many of the school's graduates might become nurses in Hawaii.
America's nursing shortage is estimated at 126,000 and is projected to exceed 800,000 by 2020. Hawaii is among the 10 lowest states in the number of registered nurses per capita. A study last year found the state's anticipated shortage of 2,267 registered nurses in the next five years could reach nearly 4,600 by 2020.
As in other states, Hawaii's nursing shortage is caused by a shortage of nursing faculty; nurses earn salaries $20,000 more than faculty, and that is not likely to change. Kapiolani Community College takes about 30 nursing students each semester out of nearly 125 qualified applicants.
The problem is made worse by the aging of today's nurses. The average age rose from 44.9 years in 1997 to 48.7 in 2001. As a result, Hawaii loses about 400 nurses a year through retirement but fewer than 300 graduate from Hawaii nursing schools to fill those positions.
The governors' agreement, believed to be unprecedented, is intended to better prepare Philippine nursing students for Hawaii's nursing tests. Faculty at the Ilocos university will have an opportunity to spend time at Kapiolani learning about new technology and teaching techniques.
The Philippine faculty members will be required to sign contracts promising to return to Ilocos and share what they have learned. The participating Kapiolani faculty will be familiarized with the Philippines learning and cultural practices.
Leon Richards, Kapiolani's chancellor, says the University of Hawaii could expand the exchange program to other universities in the Philippines and possibly to schools in China and other countries.
Hawaii is not the only state seeking nurses from abroad, and about 60 percent of the 20,000 foreign nurses taking state exams in the United States are from the Philippines. More than 1,000 graduates of Philippine nursing schools now work as nurses in Hawaii.
The new program could give Hawaii an edge in luring the nursing graduates to the islands, which have a long relationship with the Ilocos region.