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A recent study suggests that Hawai’i will suffer from a severe nursing shortage in the next 15 years. The average age of the state's practicing nurses is at 48.7 years, and the percentage of younger nurses in the beginning stages of their careers is decreasing while the percentage of those approaching retirement is increasing. Specific steps are needed immediately to address the shortage, the study warns, to assure quality health care for the people of Hawai’i. The Queen's Medical Center has taken the first steps to address the problem. The Queen Emma Foundation (QEF) has committed $7.5 million over five years toward improving the nursing profession in Hawai’i.

A total of $2.5 million ($500,000 per year for five years) of the funds will go toward expanding the Queen Emma Nursing Institute. Established in 1991, the Queen Emma Nursing Institute has so far made significant contributions to nursing, including sponsoring a Distinguished Nurse Researcher Lecture Series, the Nursing Leadership Academy, 20 nursing conferences and Healing Touch training.

With the QEF funds, the Queen Emma Nursing Institute will be able to significantly expand its areas of focus, such as in the areas of education, nursing research, recruitment and retention, professional practice and workforce development. The funding will go towards nurse recruitment and retention programs, and significant partnerships between clinical and academic settings will be developed. An in-house faculty with doctoral level nurses will also be established to bring expertise directly to the QMC nursing staff.

The remaining $5 million ($1 million per year for five years) pledged by the Queen Emma Foundation will be used for specialty RN training in a variety of disciplines. Availability of specialty training has been effective in recruiting and retention, and allows nurses to move into new specialties.

"This is an exciting opportunity to make a contribution to the health care of the people of Hawai’i," said Mathews, "and to work collaboratively with other organizations and agencies to develop innovative programs and initiatives in nursing."

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