© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Hawaiʻi’s health care sector trying new approaches to fill open jobs

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

There are still lots of open jobs in Hawaiʻi’s health care sector. But industry leaders are looking for different solutions to this ongoing labor shortage.

According to Hilton Raethel, president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, home health businesses have the highest shortage of registered nurses, with nearly 40% of available positions vacant.

The association has updated its jobs reports, quantifying the health care workforce by type of institution and occupation. It’s also assessing how difficult a given position is to fill.

For example, Hawaiʻi has nearly 1,000 vacant RN positions and only 30 vacant jobs for ultrasound technicians. But the research found that ultrasound technicians are harder to come by.

Raethel’s organization is focused on strengthening the education pipeline that can steer kamaʻāina toward health care professions. It is also working with the Hawaiʻi State Center for Nursing to expand nurse residency and nurse specialty practice programs.

PBN also spoke to Daniel Ross, president of the Hawaiʻi Nurses' Association, the labor union representing nurses. In his view, the education pipeline is a small factor in Hawaiʻi’s nursing shortage.

He points to the rapid burnout and frequent turnover of RNs after they're hired as a significant part of the problem. HNA insists that pay commensurate to the cost of living, and better working conditions in hospitals, would go a long way toward solving the crisis by improving retention.

Raethel spoke to that, as well, noting that while the average wage for a Hawaiʻi registered nurse in 2022 was $113,000, the cost of housing relative to other states makes Hawaiʻi less competitive.

A. Kam Napier is the editor-in-chief of Pacific Business News.
Related Stories