Nursing alumna Patricia Hensley receives tenure at UH Hilo

Assistant Professor Patricia Hensley plans to build on her research and continue contributing to UH Hilo’s School of Nursing.

Patricia Hensley pictured with garden backdrop.
Patricia Hensley. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

By Elena Espinoza.

This story is the first in a series on recently tenured faculty at UH Hilo.

With a teaching career that started in the U.S. Air Force, an alumna of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo who was part of the first graduating class of the university’s doctor of nursing practice program in 2015, recently received promotion and tenure at her alma mater.

Logo: University of Hawaii ayt Hilo School of Nursing. With taro and a rainbow.Patricia Hensley, assistant professor of nursing, has taught at UH Hilo’s School of Nursing for nearly six years. She currently teaches the leadership and management capstone practicum course in which undergraduate nursing students complete projects with healthcare organizations in the community.

She plans on using the security of tenure to expand her credentials and continue giving back to her school and community through her instruction and research.

“I plan to gain the professional certification in nursing education and eventually transcultural nursing,” says Hensley. “Obtaining these certifications will help to further improve my teaching and to achieve our school’s vision.”

Hensley also has developed a recent interest in the determinants of nursing student success and is interested in comparing the university’s bachelor of science in nursing program admission criteria measures and other demographic and social variables with student outcomes.

“I believe it is important we evaluate the determinants of success amongst our own unique nursing student population,” she says.

From field to classroom

Before coming to UH Hilo, Hensley’s teaching career began in the U. S. Air Force, where she served as an emergency medical technician in California and Texas, including in pediatric intensive care. During this time, she earned multiple associate degrees in arts and science at Solano Community College and in applied science at the Community College of the Air Force. She also completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Sacramento State University during her service.

“Ongoing education and training is a requirement in the healthcare professions, we are expected to help educate and train others,” she explains, noting that she taught many medical technicians during her time in the service.


Group of nine students and faculty stand for photo in white coats.
Patricia Hensley (front row, second from right) was in the first graduating class of UH Hilo’s doctor of nursing practice program in 2015. (Photo courtesy of the School of Nursing/UH Hilo)

Becoming a nursing instructor was a dream for Hensley for quite some time. After graduating in 2015 as part of the first doctor of nursing practice graduating class at UH Hilo, she decided to apply for an assistant professor teaching position at UH Hilo’s School of Nursing. She has been with the program for almost six years where she teaches, conducts her research, and contributes to the university and local community.

Research on alarm fatigue

Heart monitor in background with graphic images of alarm sounds and an ear that has stopped listening.
Patricia Hensley is researching alarm fatigue (AF), a problem found among health care workers who constantly hear alarms from various medical sources. AF is a major patient safety hazard as well as the leading cause of alarm-related patient harm. (Monitor image Steve Garfield/CC)

Hensley is researching clinical alarm fatigue (AF), a problem that happens when health care workers become distracted, overwhelmed, and desensitized by multiple false and non-actionable alarm noises. AF is a major patient safety hazard as well as the leading cause of alarm-related patient harm.

A major part of Hensley’s research is in developing a survey that measures clinical alarm fatigue so educated changes can be made in hopes to reduce the problem and increase national patient safety.

“I plan to test the AF survey across clinical departments to determine how AF measures change depending on the clinical area, and if said changes correlate with literary findings that AF is generally higher in critical care areas,” she says.

She is planning to distribute the surveys to a large number of clinicians through professional organizations and aims to analyze the surveys for psychometric adequacy.

Published works

Hensley has published her work in several scientific journals.

She co-authored the article “Social Determinants of Health Disparities Affecting Micronesian Migrants in Hawaiʻi,” published by The UPNAAI Nursing Journal by the University of the Philippines Nursing Alumni Association International.

She also contributed to “The one-minute preceptor model for nurse practitioners: A pilot study of a preceptor training program,” published in the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Currently, Hensley’s manuscript, “Developing and Piloting a Survey Tool for Measuring Alarm Fatigue,” is under review at the American Journal of Critical Care.

Inspiring others

In addition to her teaching and research, Hensley serves the nursing school through various committees as a member of the Faculty Congress. She also serves as a class advisor with focus on transfer students and outreach activities at local colleges and medical centers. She works with graduate students as well, serving on the doctoral student committees where doctoral students complete various projects.

Hensley shares that her time serving her school and community has been extremely fulfilling.

“The gratitude that students show is one thing that makes teaching so fulfilling,” she says

In 2018, Hensley received the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, furthering her confidence in her career and contributions.

“It reinforced that I had made the right decision and that I was doing a good job,” she says.


By Elena Espinoza, an English major who is also earning a certificate in teaching English as a second language.

Photo at top by Kirsten Aoyagi, a communication major.