UH Hilo receives state funding to address nursing faculty shortage

UH Hilo will receive $532,150 to fund 12 positions at the university’s School of Nursing.

School of Nursing logo and aerial of UH Hilo campus.

By Susan Enright

Gov. David Ige has released $1.75 million for 39 new instructor positions statewide to help address Hawaiʻi’s severe nursing faculty shortage and to support University of Hawaiʻi nursing programs throughout the state. Of the money, UH Hilo will receive $532,150 to fund 12 positions at the university’s School of Nursing.

The statewide initiative, which Ige included in his budget request to the state legislature that lawmakers approved during the 2022 legislative session, will help UH graduate more nurses to meet the workforce demands of the state.

Jeanette Ayers-Kawakami pictured
Jeanette Ayers-Kawakami

“We are so pleased to receive the funding to support the UH Hilo School of Nursing, as it was a lot of work into the process for this request and certainly a much needed source of funding,” says Jeanette Ayers-Kawakami, an associate professor of nursing and director of UH Hilo’s School of Nursing.

“After all, we all will rely on a nurse at one point or another, this will never change, and the need has never been greater than it is now,” she adds. “This fiscal support certainly helps with this process.”

There are an estimated 1,000 current nurse vacancies in the state of Hawaiʻi, according to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Hawaiʻi state labor data predicts there is an anticipated growth of nurse demand of an additional 110 positions each year, through 2030.

The UH Hilo School of Nursing is currently stabilizing after a significant loss of faculty due to retirements and attrition. Ayers-Kawakami says the school is recuperating and looking at the possibility of expansion of the nursing cohort in the future.

“Thankfully, despite the loss of faculty in the last few years, we didn’t decrease our admissions, and we will continue to serve our community and students with the bachelor of science in nursing and the doctor of nursing practice programs,” she explains. “Currently, we are working on lecture postings for a pool for eligible nurses to apply for a lecture position with the school.

Graduate stands with her parents for photo with red and white balloons in background. Graduate has lei and red sash. Mother is in pink and father in an aloha shirt.
UH Hilo nursing graduate Emme Furuya with her parents at the Annual Pinning Ceremony of the UH Hilo School of Nursing, a family-oriented event celebrating the completion of the nursing cohort’s studies. May 13, 2022, Performing Arts Center, UH Hilo. (Kirsten Aoyagi/UH Hilo Stories)

The state funds are for only one year, so efforts will need to continue into the future to ensure ongoing funds are obtained.

“Ideally, we’d like permanent faculty positions to help the School of Nursing get back to where we were previously with full time faculty teaching the majority of our courses, mainly the theory courses, and our lecturers will continue to support the school in teaching efforts,” Ayers-Kawakami says.

She adds that during this time of substantial need for nurses in local communities, the school wants to continue to “grow our own” and potentially increase student cohort sizes to service this need.

“Our programs have developed successfully, and the School of Nursing has not been able to keep pace with the growth of our programs offered due to faculty retirements and attrition,” she says.

The programs offered are the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), registered nurse to BSN (RN-BSN), and doctor of nursing practice (DNP). In 2019, the DNP program received reaccreditation through 2029.

University Classroom Building
The UH Hilo School of Nursing is located in the campus’ signature University Classroom Building.

Ayers-Kawakami says the nursing school’s faculty have worked continued overload schedules for the past several years, and in order to continue to grow their programs with increased cohort sizes, a mirrored increase in faculty, support personnel, and physical space must occur.

Just as important as faculty, is the need for support personnel that work in the school, because without their expertise, the programs would not run as smoothly or successfully.

“With such a critical need for RNs in a multitude of specialties and local healthcare entities still experiencing an increased need to use travel nurses to help fill those gaps, we absolutely want to support our community by providing baccalaureate-prepared nurses to help address these needs,” says Ayers-Kawakami.

See UH System News for more information on the statewide initiative.

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By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories.

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