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Head of Hawaiʻi health care association talks nursing shortage

School nurses confront the coronavirus.
Janice Chang for NPR

Fewer people in the state are being hospitalized with COVID-19, but overall, hospitalizations are still up.

Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, says that total hospitalizations are currently higher than during the peaks of the delta and omicron surges.

Hawaiʻi health care facilities rely on nursing staff from out of state, with about 100 of them working here on rotation. Raethel says there’s plenty of local interest in the nursing profession, but limited faculty to train new recruits.

"We've got a shortage of nursing faculty in the state. And so we have a lot more applicants, qualified applicants, than what we can teach," Raethel told HPR. "Which is really frustrating that we've got, you know, young people in the state who want to get trained to be a nurse — and they have all the qualifications, they have all the prerequisites — but we just can't accommodate them. We just don't have enough faculty to teach them."

The state is exploring other avenues to fight the nursing shortage, including entering a multistate nursing compact. Nurses with licenses from states in the compact would not need to obtain a new license to practice in Hawaiʻi.

Hawaiʻi is one of five states that doesn’t participate in a system that allows health care workers to work under reciprocal licensing.

In this interview, Raethal also addresses the shutdown of LifeSave KuPono.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 19, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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