Nursing BSN coming in ’22

Ka‘ana Mana‘o

Last March, we were keenly anticipating final approval for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program to begin here at UH Maui College this spring semester. And then . . . the COVID-19 pandemic landed and, like everyone’s plans everywhere, ours were understandably disrupted. Although things certainly are not back to anything near “normal,” we are hopeful that fall 2022 will mark the semester we start to offer a four-year degree program to our nursing students.

Dr. Anne Scharnhorst, our Allied Health Department chair and professor in our Nursing Program, has been the driving force behind this effort for several years. And the pandemic actually upped her determination.

“We have a very strong nursing faculty — I’m the fifth doctorate,” Scharnhorst said. “We have a responsibility — and we have the capability — to serve our community and keep our talent here on our island.”

“The State of Hawai’i has led the country in academic progression in nursing,” she added. “We are already part of a statewide alliance — the Hawai’i Statewide Nursing Consortium. Kapi’olani Community College, Kaua’i Community College and UH Maui College all have the same Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) curriculum allowing students to get their BSNs seamlessly. But they can only do it at Manoa.”

Nurses who graduate with a BSN get much more than a license.

“What you gain in a bachelor’s program is system thinking, knowledge of policy, finance, interprofessional collaboration,” continued Scharnhorst. “These things provide flexibility and adaptability going into a health care system in which the complexities are increasing exponentially. Our county needs that.”

The stakeholders within the UH system — the vice president of Community Colleges, the Maui regents, the dean of the School of Nursing at Manoa — are all on board. And, said Scharnhorst, “this is not just a college initiative.” One of the most significant and wholehearted backers is our hospital, which already offers our graduates excellent mentorship and professional opportunities.

Gary Kienbaum is the chief nurse executive at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

“Having a BSN program will send the message that we are trying to achieve the very best in nursing practice right on our own island,” he said. “I do think it’s important to home-grow the highest standard right here on Maui. I believe a BSN rounds out a student through the academic rigor required to explore other subjects, not just nursing. Additional academic exercise forms global thinkers, people who think bigger, people who say, ‘there’s more to this than what I’m seeing in front of me.’ That contributes to better patient care and better patient outcomes as nurses move forward in the profession. We want our local students to have the academic credentials necessary for them to become leaders. And we’re interested in doing everything we can to help.”

Scharnhorst added that “some of the most renowned researchers in the world have studied the variable of having a BSN in developed countries.”

“That degree leads to lower morbidity, lower mortality, lower readmission, less failure to rescue (from post-operative infections, sepsis). Simply having a BSN moves those data points positively,” she said.

“Our community looks to us to offer the highest standard. As the only local producer of RNs, a BSN program at UH Maui College plugs the hole in the bottom of the boat, so to speak.”

We should say here that our spring 2020 nursing graduates have been on the front lines of Maui County’s pandemic response and continue to be so. It was thrilling to see our graduates vaccinate their professors in our drive-thru vaccination trial run at the end of December. And Kienbaum relates his satisfaction and delight watching eight new graduates in their crisp white uniforms inoculating our neighbors in the hospital lobby on the day the vaccine was rolled out. It emphasizes the commitment to homegrown talent and to providing opportunities to grow their educational foundation right here at home. We are, obviously, incredibly proud of every graduate of our Nursing Program. And, hopefully, by the time our first BSN cohort graduates, we will send them off into a much healthier Maui, making their jobs a little easier and just as rewarding.

For information about our nursing program, please visit http://maui.hawaii.edu/nursing/. For information about all our programs, please visit http://maui.hawaii.edu /programs-of-study/.

* Dr. Lui K. Hokoana is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.


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