Maui has only one acute care hospital, located in Wailuku. If you live farther than 30 minutes away from Maui Memorial Medical Center and need immediate care, the consequences can be dire. This one issue has caused many people to sell their homes or move away.
The West Maui community has tried for years to have another hospital built there. According to the Maui News, the state approved a hospital project in 2009, but it has since been on hold due to an inability to secure funding. And even if the hospital were to be built, it would be difficult to find enough medical personnel to staff it.
In light of these challenges, the Wailea Community Association has found an innovative way to help anyone who needs better access to healthcare. It has started contributing in several ways to the nursing program at UH Maui College, in hopes of increasing healthcare resources in the Maui community.
Helping new nurses get to work
This spring, WCA will cover all the licensure expenses for UHMC’s 41 nursing graduates, as it did for 38 graduates last fall. The costs can be up to $450 per student: the test is $200, plus students have to travel to O‘ahu to take it. WCA also paid for the licensure of 10 LPNs, and it has committed to helping another 10 LPNs this fall.
In addition, the WCA is helping nursing students prepare for their NCLEX licensure examinations by offsetting the cost of software that features practice tests and simulations, tutoring, books and more to increase students’ testing success.
“We are thrilled to continue partnering with UH, especially during this pandemic,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association. “We have all learned how valuable this program and these students and graduates are to our Maui community.”
Besides helping students become nurses, the partnership with WCA is already making a tangible impact in the community.
WCA recently asked UHMC’s nursing department for help talking with the WCA landscaping crew in Ilocano about COVID vaccinations. Students realized there was a need in the Filipino community to dispel misinformation and make it easier to access vaccines.
They organized a COVID vaccination clinic at Binhi At Ani Filipino Community Center on May 1. The students ran all aspects of the clinic—from finding supplies to setting up to screening and registration—and gave 76 shots!
“It is an amazing testament to the influence these young nurses are having, and will have, in this community,” said Anne Scharnhorst, DNP, RN, chair and professor of Allied Health at UHMC. She said WCA’s influence will be felt for years to come.
Enabling students to continue their journeys
Students have been grateful for the support, especially considering how the pandemic has impacted their lives. The WCA’s gifts have encouraged nursing students not only to complete their licensing, but also to continue their education.
Chelsea Yamashige graduated with her Associate of Science in nursing in May 2020. She said the financial support for NCLEX fees gave her more financial freedom, which has allowed her to better balance her work, school and personal life, and spend more time studying.
“This ultimately allows me to better care for the patients I have as one of the newly-appointed nurse residents at the Maui Memorial Medical Center,” she wrote in a thank-you letter.
Yamashige is now working remotely on her bachelor’s in nursing from Boise State University. She plans to continue on for a doctorate in nursing practice, as she wants to become a nurse practitioner and specialize in oncology.
“It is here in the field of nursing that I truly feel both challenged and driven to become a better version of myself every day for the benefit of my patients, my community, and to perpetuate a strong workforce of passionate and genuine healthcare team members,” Yamashige said.
Mikiala Maynard also earned her associate degree from UHMC in May 2020. With financial support from WCA, she passed her licensing exam in August and is now working on a bachelor’s in nursing at UH Mānoa. She will graduate this May and has been accepted into the Doctorate in Nursing Practice program at UH Mānoa. She wants to become a family nurse practitioner and stay on Maui to serve her community.
“This new journey has not been easy, but it is already so rewarding,” Maynard wrote in a letter to WCA. “By being able to help members of our community, and by learning and growing so much myself, I know I have found my true calling.”
She added: “I hope that by returning to school, I am showing my daughter (and others) that anything is possible, and dreams can come true, with hard work and dedication.”
Like Maynard, Arielle Bagcal appreciated the support from WCA to cover her NCLEX exam last August. She is continuing her studies at UH Hilo toward a bachelor’s in nursing and hopes to finish in spring 2022.
Bagcal said that the assistance from WCA will help her pay for her BSN tuition and any other additional fees. She wrote, “You have alleviated many of our financial burdens and helped us achieve our goals.”