Keeping up with demands

LIHUE — While a nationwide call resounds for more physicians and nurses, those involved in Kauai’s healthcare sector say they have lots of students coming up in the ranks.

“There isn’t a shortage of nursing that I know on Kauai at this time,” said Tammie Napoleon, Kauai Community College health education chair and nursing faculty member. “There might be some shortages in allied health sciences.”

KCC’s health sciences division consists of nursing, medical assisting, certified nurse aide, early childhood education and physical education.

Many of those students use places like Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital to log clinical hours, then move through the ranks, filling job openings as they emerge and providing a strong local pool of job candidates for employers.

“A lot of KCC students come here for their clinical at some point,” said Marlene Osuna, KVMH human resources specialist. “We have the PA (physicians assistant) program and then we get a lot of CNA (certified nursing assistant) clinicians.”

Many students will come to KVMH as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and continue with their education while working there at least on a part-time basis, eventually landing full-time positions in the healthcare industry on Kauai through that route.

“We don’t have a lot of turnover,” Osuna said. “We try our best to keep you, we know you and have already invested time into you.”

That’s a plus when it comes to snagging a job fresh out of school, because hospitals like the state-owned KVMH require previous experience before hiring someone for places like the emergency room or psychiatric or obstetrics departments.

“Per our job description, you have to have worked ER at least six months before working with us,” Osuna said.

She said KVMH’s biggest needs are probably in the laboratory and imaging departments, and that seems to be based on pay, not a shortage of qualified people on the island.

“Based on what the state pays, we might not be as competitive as a private company,” she said.

The other group of students that does clinicals at KVMH are from off-island. Osuna says they particularly attract students from Chicago.

The University of Hawaii just put out a plea for housing for such individuals within their system. Organizers have developed a program to recruit community members to serve as homestay hosts for health sciences students who are training away from their home island.

Osuna said most of the off-island students KVMH hosts have their housing organized by their own individual schools.

Napoleon says KCC doesn’t have a formal homestay program for health sciences students.

“I do have some nursing students manage to find their own housing on-island,” Napoleon said. “Housing is a talking point at KCC, but the housing need is everywhere.”

Some international students arrange homestays, though.

When it comes to staffing, Osuna said KVMH recently had a flood of applicants, after working with the online employment website CareerBuilder.

“In the last 30 days I got a boom in applications for areas like ER and OB (obstetrics),” Osuna said. “I’m getting people that are moving here (for the job) or already moving here and looking for work.”

It’s a relief for recruitment when it comes to those specialty positions, she said, and she works to help get new employees set up on island.

“When I have people moving here, I give them a sheet that tells them about the beaches and places to get a car, what places I know of that are for rent, just to help,” Osuna said.


Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or


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