Pay professors more to address nursing shortage
Nursing shortages in Hawaii and other states are exacerbated by a shortage of nursing professors.
ACUTE nursing shortages pose a threat to the increasing number of retiring baby boomers in Hawaii and across the country. A move to import nurses from foreign countries fails to recognize that thousands of prospective nursing students are turned away from universities because of a shortage of nursing professors
, who earn far less than practicing nurses.
The problem is being felt on Kauai, where 140 nurses are on strike at Wilcox Hospital, the island's largest hospital. The nurses have agreed to a hefty 21-percent wage increase over three years but object to the number of nurses placed on call for patients' care.
The American Hospital Association reported in April that the nation's hospitals had 118,000 vacancies for registered nurses. The government predicts that the shortage could grow to more than 800,000 by 2020. Hawaii's shortfall of registered nurses was 1,041 in 2000 and is expected to reach 2,267 by 2010 and nearly 4,600 by 2020.
Nurses in Hawaii earn salaries at least $20,000 more than nursing faculty, and the same disparity is nationwide. Because of faculty shortages, American nursing schools rejected nearly 150,000 applications from qualified students last year, according to the National League for Nursing. Public nursing schools in Hawaii turned away 443 qualified applicants in the 2004-2005 school year.
Universities will need to increase nursing professors' salaries and expand their ranks to cope with the looming crisis. Adding to the problem is the high percentage of professors and nurses who will soon be retiring. The average age of Hawaii nurses rose from 44.9 years in 1997 to 49.3 in 2003, while the average age of Hawaii nursing educators is 53.
Gov. Lingle and the governor of the Philippines' Ilocos region signed a pact earlier this year to create an exchange program between Kapiolani Community College and the University of Northern Philippines. Participating Philippine faculty will learn how to better prepare Philippine nursing students for Hawaii's nursing exams. More than 1,000 graduates of Philippine nursing schools now work in Hawaii.
Other states also are looking abroad, mainly to the Philippines, China and India, to lure nurses to America. A nurse in the Philippines earns a starting salary of less than $2,000, compared to at least $36,000 in the United States.
A provision of the immigration bill approved by the Senate would remove the limit on the number of nurses who can immigrate, raising concerns that nursing shortages could become severe in poor countries. "The Filipino people will suffer because the U.S. will get all our trained nurses," George Cordero, president of the Philippine Nurse Association, told the New York Times.