Taking care to solve nursing shortage
In 2005, millions of people tried to prepare for Hurricane Katrina and we all watched while the region was crippled due to a lack of emergency and health system preparedness. Today, the urgency to prepare for the next disaster has never been greater. Across Hawaii, local leaders and residents are planning for possible health crises, from pandemic flu to an act of terrorism. However, there is one problem that will make the response to emergencies even more difficult: the shortage of experienced nurses. Hawaii already has been identified as having a nursing shortage that affects emergency preparedness.
We also depend upon nurses for the personal care they provide every day when we are sick or injured. Nurses in acute care hospitals, long-term care settings, community agencies, public health settings and homes are providing much needed health care for all of us. This care is threatened by the ever-increasing shortage of highly educated and experienced registered nurses. A recent report by the Trust for America's Health indicates that 40 states that faces both a current and future shortage of nurses. Hawaii is one of those 40 states.
The HMSA Foundation and the Hawaii State Center for Nursing are taking the first steps toward solving this problem. A unique partnership has been formed to develop a stable, adequate nursing workforce. This partnership is part of a national program known as Partners Investing in Nursing's Future, led by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Northwest Health Foundation, to encourage local foundations to act as catalysts in developing grass-roots strategies to address the nursing shortage.
The HMSA Foundation and the Hawaii State Center for Nursing have come together to create the Hawaii Partners in Nursing Project: Addressing Recruitment and Retention Issues in Long-Term Care. The focus is to build partnerships to develop an model of education and practice in long-term care. Components of the project include placement of students in long-term care facilities for clinical education, providing inservice education for long-term care staff and implementing a program to build and sustain professional development for long-term care staff.
The HPIN project involves the following partners: Hawaii Pacific University School of Nursing, University of Hawaii School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, Kapiolani Community College, Maui Community College, Hi'olani Care Center at Kahala Nui, Maunalani Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Leahi Hospital, Hale Makua, Queen's Medical Center and VITEC at Maui Community College. Although we've only taken the first steps, the project shows great promise in strengthening the nursing workforce. In addition, the state Legislature continues to have a critical role in enabling the public schools of nursing to increase educational capacity.
As we mark National Public Health Week this week, the HMSA Foundation and the Hawaii State Center for Nursing are committed to working with our community to address the health issues that face Hawaii. This is not someone else's problem to fix -- it takes all of us! Here's what you can do to help: Contact either the HMSA Foundation or the Hawaii State Center for Nursing to learn of other initiatives and innovative projects to address the nursing shortage and ways to get involved.
Barbara Mathews is the executive director of the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.