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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 9, 2002

There's good reason for nursing shortage

The University of Hawai'i School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene is doing the right thing in response to the state's nursing shortage with its launch of an accelerated or "fast track" nursing program.

It joins similar programs already begun by Kapi'olani Community College and Hawai'i Pacific University. Many more are needed to replace departing and retiring nurses at the rate of 120 nurses a year.

But it's clear these programs treat a symptom rather than the disease itself. That is, in terms of market forces, the community is getting as many nurses as it is willing to pay for, and no more.

Nurses are like school teachers and police officers: indispensable yet undervalued. As a result, Hawai'i is suffering from shortages of all three. The Honolulu Police Department and the state Department of Education have stepped up recruiting drives. The HPD has expanded its recruit training program, and UH's College of Education has expedited some of its programs.

All three careers, of course, are unusually rewarding, but are underpaid.

Some young people are willing to make this sort of sacrifice, but clearly not enough. We won't have enough nurses, teachers and police officers until we stop undervaluing them.