Less than two years since it launched, a satellite nursing program is proving to be an out-of-this-world success in Hawaiʻi. The Nurse Education Satellite Program run by Kapiʻolani Community College brings practical nursing and associate in science degree nursing to students on Oʻahu’s Windward side and Leeward coast.
The first cohort of practical nursing students at Windward Community College earned Kapiʻolani certification in December 2010. The inaugural cohort of associate in science in nursing students at Leeward Community College will graduate in fall 2011.
“Our mission is to provide access,” says Kapiʻolani Department of Nursing Chair May Kealoha. Making it happen was a group effort.
Former Windward Chancellor Angela Meixell struck a deal with Kapiʻolani Chancellor Leon Richards—she would provide classroom and office space if he would send equipment and faculty for a practical nursing program. The University of Hawaiʻi Community Colleges system office chipped in with funds to renovate the room. Kapiʻolani faculty agreed to juggle schedules and go on the road, even hauling practice mannequins back and forth, to keep classes running at both locations. Accrediting agencies signed off on the plan.
“We revised the whole curriculum so that the prerequisites in the Practical Nursing Program count toward the associate degree,” Kealoha says.
After completing the Practical Nursing Program and obtaining an LPN license, students can pursue an associate degree program and complete their RN coursework in three additional semesters. To date, all the students who have taken the licensing exam have passed. Some are working, some planning to continue their studies.
“It’s a career ladder,” Kealoha explains. Windward offers the nurse aide program, which prepares graduates with fundamentals to assist in healthcare settings. Those students can move into Kapiʻolani’s 11-month practical nursing satellite program, then prepare for licensure examination and work in care homes and clinics.
The next rung is the Associate of Science in Nursing Program, which prepares students to become registered nurses and pass the RN licensure examinations. They then work in entry level nursing positions.
The Kapiʻolani AS program is now available at Leeward Community College. “They had to build a building for us,” Kealoha enthuses. “They call it a portable, but it’s really beautiful, with hospital beds, curtains, storage and a simulation lab where students will be able to practice skills on a training mannequin.”
Students at all three locations participate in clinical placements to gain hospital experiences and benefit from on-site counseling to work through financial aid needs, academic difficulties or other problems that could derail their progress. Kealoha recalls watching one student in the Windward cohort survive the bumps in the road.
“A single parent working in a hospital while going to school and caring for her child, she was so grateful that she could run down the street to do what she needed to do and return to campus,” Kealoha says.
Windward has the highest percentage of Native Hawaiians among the student population of any UH campus, she notes. Leeward represents an educationally underserved region. So both satellites create opportunities for those underrepresented in healthcare professions.
“We want to open doors from Waimānalo to Lāʻie and in Waiʻanae,” she says. “This is an effort to improve the community through education.”