Faculty members at Chaminade University are unpacking boxes of penlights, blood pressure cuffs and other nursing equipment to gear up for the first day of the college’s new nursing program.
"Things are coming in daily," said nursing dean Stephanie Genz. "It’s such an exciting time."
Classes begin Monday for about 80 students in the nursing program’s inaugural class.
"This is clearly going to be the most important new program we adopted during this decade," said Chaminade President Brother Bernard Ploeger, who anticipates the program will eventually have about 250 students.
Community and geriatric care will be the focus at Chaminade to address Hawaii’s aging population. Genetics and genomics will also be integrated into the curriculum.
The nursing program — joining those at the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University and the University of Phoenix — will help meet a critical need for nurses, said Gail Tiwanak, executive director of the Hawaii State Center for Nursing.
"It will increase the number of registered nurse graduates, which is facing a significant shortage in the next five to 10 years," Tiwanak said.
She said a shortage of nearly 2,500 nurses is projected in Hawaii in 2020 as baby boomers in the profession are expected to retire. While officials at the Center for Nursing observed an increase in the number of nursing graduates over the past four years, it still falls short of projected demand.
"We’re certainly looking at ways of existing programs to increase their enrollment," she said.
Discussions about starting a nursing program at the 55-year-old university began in 2004 during a casual meeting among university officials, board members and community members about the demand for nurses with other universities at capacity.
Chaminade secured federal and private grants estimated at $6 million to transform a defunct library on the second floor of Henry Hall into a new nursing center.
The center spans 6,000 square feet and is equipped with 16 patient beds in two skills labs. Tools such as lifelike adult and pediatric simulators will be used. The center also has a simulation suite with three patient rooms, two debriefing rooms, a computer lab and a conference room.
Genz, former assistant dean of the undergraduate school of nursing and faculty at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., arrived in Hawaii last year to work on the nursing program’s curriculum and center plans.
She spent a decade at Viterbo teaching public health nursing and leadership, and before that worked for 25 years as a nurse in Wisconsin, Alaska and Russia. In 2000 she developed a nurse-managed clinic in La Crosse to address the needs of the homeless.
The new nursing center is named after philanthropist Dr. Lawrence K.W. Tseu and his wife, BoHing Chan Tseu. Tseu donated $1 million to the final construction of the center in honor of his late wife and the nurses who cared for her before she succumbed to lung cancer in 2008. A dedication ceremony of the new center will be held next month.
Ploeger recalled the site is where the original chapel of the university was located before it was transformed into a library and now the center. "It’s in an honored place," he said.