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UH nursing program eases for neighbor isles

By Gene Park


The University of Hawaii has made it easier for neighbor island students to earn a bachelor's degree in nursing as part of a statewide nursing consortium.

Starting this fall, students on Oahu, Kauai and Maui will be using one curriculum and can earn nursing degrees from the Manoa campus in four years instead of five.

Students at Kauai Community College and UH's Maui College can take their first three years of nursing classes and earn an associate degree in nursing on a neighbor island. After that they can complete a fourth year through classes on their home island or through distance-learning technology.

"Further, with one curriculum and using technology, faculties can share resource materials, best practices and build on each other's work," said Mary Boland, dean of UH's School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene. "The result is a coordinated and efficient approach to education that will strengthen the neighbor island work force, increase educational options and shorten the time to graduation."

Before this semester, students at Kauai Community College and Maui College were required to have five years of full-time study. They also had to relocate to the Manoa or Hilo campuses for their final two years, but enrollment was limited to a few students at a time.

"Sometimes they couldn't get in because there was no room," said Char Ono, nursing chairwoman for Kauai Community College. "It was one class at a time, so they couldn't do it full time."

About 5 percent of community college students go on to attain bachelor's degrees, university officials say. With the consortium, the university hopes to have half of the current nursing students earn bachelor's degrees by 2013.

There are 886 students enrolled in the nursing program across the UH system.

Kapiolani Community College will be a partner in the consortium by fall 2012. Hawaii Community College is expected to join at an undetermined date.

The consortium was formed to address projections of a nationwide shortage of nurses. Forty-three percent of the 11,000 nurses working in Hawaii intend to retire in the next 15 years, according to the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.

The center's projections indicate there will be a shortage of about 2,670 registered nurses in Hawaii by 2020.

Boland said the university launched a Master's Entry in Nursing program three years ago, which added about 60 nurses to the local work force while they were completing their graduate specialty education.

Next August the Manoa campus will offer a nursing program to local students directly from high school. Previously, students had to be admitted to UH-Manoa, then apply to the nursing program.

"This pilot effort will help us to gauge the demand and retain more students in Hawaii," Boland said. "This is just one of the approaches to build our nursing work-force pipeline."

Lahaina resident Hope Beam, 34, is in her first semester of the nursing program. She is a mother of twin 7-year-old boys and a 3-year-old daughter and works part time to support her family.

"To have this program, we're very blessed," Beam said. "You're given more education, more responsibility and more ability to make the decision to learn more about the field."

She has a degree in public relations and has been working in the field since 1998. But she wanted to switch careers to offer more direct help to the local community. She wants to pursue a master's in nursing.

"I'm just learning to juggle it all," Beam said. "You hear left and right there's a nursing shortage. I wanted to do something that would have more of an impact on the people around me, something I could be more passionate about."

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