Healthcare worker shortage worsens, solutions coming

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials said the shortage of healthcare workers has gotten much worse in the past three years, but they are working on a solution to make it easier to get into the field and retain them.

Some of the leaders of the healthcare industry are working together as a group called the Healthcare Workforce Initiative. Since they first started the group in 2019, they said the vacancies for non-physician positions has reached nearly 4,000, which is a 76 percent increase.

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Nurses in all levels and different fields are sorely needed, and officials said the problem is those in the entry level aren’t able to take classes to get advanced degrees because the classes are offered during working hours.

“This has been a major roadblock for our employees and students who wish to learn more and earn an income while they’re going to school,” said Carl Hinson, co-chair of the Healthcare Workforce Initiative.

They have implemented a program called Glide Path, which officials said will allow healthcare workers to take classes without having to quit their job.

“Working CNA‘s can earn and learn while advancing to become LPNs. They continue working, studying online curriculum and complete their clinical education at the workplaces,” said Wesley Lo, Ohana Pacific Health CEO.

Officials said they plan to expand the program to allow more workers the chance to move up.

“Hopefully people find that within any of our organizations there’s an entire career without having to leave, specifically leave Hawaii or just have to leave the employer to ultimately get to where they want to be,” said Jason Chang, The Queen’s Health System COO.

They’re also working with the Department of Education so students in their junior or senior year can get their certification to entry level positions.

Officials said Hawaii nurses are the second highest paid in the nation but that the high cost of housing is making it difficult to attract more workers to Hawaii.

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“We’re already having discussions with the governor-elect and his team and the mayors and there’s developers. There’s a lot of people that are interested in solving this problem, but we do have to address this housing problem,” said Hilton Raethel, Healthcare Association of Hawaii CEO.

Officials are hoping to see substantial results within the next year or two.

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