RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maile Fisher, left, and Kayla Faufata recited the Nursing Pledge on Friday at KCC during the final commencement ceremony of the college's Practical Nursing Program.
Final class graduates from KCC nurse program
It's the end of an era.
A popular nurse training program created about 40 years ago at Kapiolani Community College has ended with the last graduating class of 21 members.
The Practical Nursing Program has been suspended because "life has changed," said May Kealoha, chairwoman of nursing.
The final class graduated in ceremonies Friday.
As the nursing profession evolves, hospitals no longer take practical nursing students for maternity and pediatric acute care, but are hiring registered nurses, said Kealoha.
Practical nurses primarily are employed in long-term care facilities, home health care and outpatient clinics, but KCC cannot offer a program without maternity and pediatric acute care experience because it is required to pass a licensing exam, Kealoha said.
"We have to devise a curriculum that will provide them with adequate clinical experience so they can pass a licensing exam."
The Practical Nursing Program had 60 students every year at one time but did not have enough teachers, Kealoha said, noting there were nine nursing faculty vacancies last year. "We had to cut back on the number of students we produce."
Further student reductions began about four years ago because "every summer when we do pediatrics and maternity, we are in great straits to find adequate clinical experience for them," she said.
Kaiser's Moanalua Medical Center helped with maternity training the past two years but could not provide as many hours as the college program requires, she said.
"If we're going to do the program, we're going to do it excellently. We have to figure out what to do."
As one solution during the program suspension, she said, KCC has started a career ladder program.
The State Board of Nursing has allowed registered nursing students to take an exam after the first year for a practical nurse's license, she said. "This is our way of getting adequate pediatric and maternity experience."
Students can go to work as a licensed practical nurse after the exam or finish credits in KCC's two-year program to be a registered nurse, she said.
Kealoha said she has seen many changes in the nursing and health care field in the 30 years she has been a nurse, and many have occurred in the three years that she has been department chairwoman.
"The LPN program is not just about a program. It's about acute care, a nursing faculty shortage and updating the curriculum," she said. When hospitals stopped hiring practical nurses for acute care, she said, "we had to change."
The college was so concerned, nursing officials looked into changing questions on the practical nursing licensing test, but it is a national exam and questions about maternity/pediatrics acute care cannot be removed.
"But it is our obligation to prepare them to pass," Kealoha said. "We're a state college. We have to prepare them to work here."