The effects of the ongoing nursing shortage are being felt and seen across the country. Hospitals are trying to find creative solutions to fill their extensive needs. In some states, it is becoming increasingly more difficult. Unfortunately, while there is an overwhelming need for nurses, one state is currently rejecting hundreds of qualified students.
Officials report that the number of nursing teaching positions in Hawaii has doubled since 2016. As of September 2022, there are currently 131 full-time teaching positions with 24 current vacancies.
Hawaii is the second highest paid state for nurses according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) with a median salary of $106,530. Currently, there are 11,110 nurses employed in the state.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Nursing, had over 1,500 qualified applicants last year throughout the University system. Unfortunately, more than 800 students never even made it into the programs.
“We can’t admit students because we don’t have the experts who can be professors and instructors in nursing school,” said Laura Reichhardt, director of the State Center for Nursing.
Currently, the nursing faculty shortage in Hawaii is the worst in the country. There are a variety of reasons why nurses do not go into academia. Two of the main reasons are 1.) Money and 2.) Education.
Nursing faculty are required to at minimum have a master’s degree. In fact, most faculty are expected to have a doctoral degree. Clinical instructors can generally get a position with only a Master’s; however, didactic faculty usually need a DNP or PhD.
The starting salary for faculty in Hawaii is roughly $80,000 which can be less than $25,000 than what an RN can make. The high cost of living in Hawaii can make a pay cut a challenge. Additionally, there is the added responsibility for faculty, that makes the change less desirable.
This isn’t the first time that Hawaii has denied nursing students due to a faculty shortage. In 2021, “the Hawaii State Center for Nursing said that in normal years 45% of nursing applicants are admitted into programs. But this year, programs were only able to accept 29% of applicants.”
“I think we are in a concerning place,” said Laura Reichhardt, center director. And this was during the COVID-19 pandemic when nurses were needed more than ever. “The pay for faculty at universities can’t compete with nurses who are working in hospitals or other healthcare settings so if you can earn 40% more, 50% more, or even more, working in an institution that’s very attractive,” said Hilton Raethel, CEO of Healthcare Association of Hawaii.