Becoming an RN in Hawaii

May 6, 2011 is Hawaii’s Celebration of Nurses. Hawaii is celebrating — and calling attention to — just how far the profession has come. The theme is “The Art of Nursing is a Science”.

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It certainly helps to have an aptitude for science. Professional nurses are innovators and researchers as well as clinical practitioners. A strong academic background and a caring, patient-centered attitude can carry you far. How do you become a registered nurse in Hawaii? It requires a degree at the associate’s or baccalaureate level. After the program is complete, a nursing graduate is eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN examination.

Although bachelor’s and associate’s programs both qualify you for the same licensing exam, the BSN is becoming the preferred degree. More than 60% of nurses in Hawaii who are working under an RN licenses have education at the baccalaureate level. This is a much higher percentage than in many other states in the nation.

It is also possible to do your education at an out-of-state institution. A 2009 survey of registered nurses found that more than 46% were educated outside of Hawaii. Distance programs are usually aimed at students who either have a bachelor’s in another field or have a nursing license at at least the LPN level.

Because Hawaii anticipates a nursing shortage, the state is taking steps to increase retention as well as recruitment. What does this mean to you as a potential nurse? Several of the region’s largest hospitals are implementing an internship program which can ease the school to work transition. Nursing has always been a highly respected profession, and a personally fulfilling one. Now Hawaii’s professional organizations and major employers are working to lessen workplace stress.

If you are native Hawaiian, your education may be financed even if you complete it in another state. You do have to be willing to make a commitment to come back to Hawaii and practice.

Educational Pathways to Registered Nursing

If you are a vocational nurse, your experience and training are valued. You may enroll in an LPN to RN bridge course that will allow you to complete the requirements in a shorter period of time.

If you already have a BA or BS in another field, you may enroll in an accelerated BSN program. Hawaii does not have an accelerated BSN program, but there are a limited number of distance programs that accept students from around the nation. Once all prerequisites are complete, the clinical program can be completed in about a year to a year and a half. (A reputable school will be able to confirm if they do indeed have clinical placement sites in Hawaii.) If you do enroll in a traditional BSN program, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be starting over. As a post-baccalaureate student, you can expect transfer credit.

Nursing Career Outlook in Hawaii

Changing demographics are expected to greatly increase the demand for nurses during the next ten to fifteen years. The Hawaii State Center for Nursing wrote in a 2009 report that the aging population would grow at a rate twice that of the population as a whole. This could potentially lead to quite a large shortfall.

The age of nursing professionals is another factor that will lead to an increased demand for new workers. Here there is a fair amount of regional variance. The 2009 report found that Hawaii County had the highest proportion of nurses 60 and over — nearly 13% of the workforce.

The Application Process

The admission process will be somewhat different depending on what level of nursing degree you seek. However, even at the ADN level, programs are competitive. Both Hawaii Community College and Kapoliani Community College use a point system to determine which candidates are most qualified. Points of consideration include grades, test scores, and previous health care experience. Hawaii Community College notes that licensed practical nurses are awarded extra points beyond what they would merit on the basis of academics alone. Kapoliani values a variety of health care backgrounds as long as they involve direct patient care. Universities, it should be noted, often have a more involved process, which can include essays and interviews.

Hawaii Board of Nursing Approved Registered Nursing Programs

Kapiolani Community College Nursing Department

Programs Offered: ADN

4303 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816, PH: 808-734-9303

Hawaii Community College

Programs Offered: ASN

200 West Kawili Street, Hilo, HI 96720, PH: 808-974-7560

Hawaii Pacific University – Nursing

Programs Offered: LPN/BSN Pathway, BSN, RN to BSN, MSN with options (Community Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Community Clinical Nurse Specialist Educator)

Hawai’i Pacific University, 1164 Bishop Street, Honolulu, Hawai’i 96813, PH: 808-544-0200

University of Hawaii – Hilo

Programs Offered: BS/BSN

200 W. Kawili Street, Hilo, HI 96720, PH: 808-974-7760

University of Hawaii – Kauai Community College

Programs Offered: Associate in Science – Registered Nursing Degree

3-1901 Kaumualii Highway, Lihue, HI 96766, PH: 808-245-8325

University of Hawaii – Maui Community College

Programs Offered: Associate in Science – Registered Nursing Degree

310 Kaahumanu Avenue,Kahului, HI 96732, PH: 808-984-3250

University of Hawaii at Manoa – School of Nursing

Programs Offered: RN to BS pathway, BSN, MS in Nursing with concentrations in (Nursing Administration and MS/MBA-Nursing, Nursing Education, Advanced Public Health Nursing, Nurse Practitioner, Adult & Child Psychiatric/Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist, MS-Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist, Master’s Entry Program in Nursing, RN to MS Program (with non-nursing baccalaureate), and Online PhD in Nursing

School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2528 McCarthy Mall, Webster Hall 330, Honolulu, HI 96822, PH: 808-956-8523