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Marshall Islands Journal Majuro, Marshall Islands

May 3, 2002


The ongoing shortage of nurses at Majuro Hospital presents two difficulties: one is the immediate and ongoing pressure that it puts on the ability of the staff to maintain a basic level of service to patients; the other is the problem that not enough Marshallese are going into the nursing profession, forcing the hospital to rely heavily on expatriate nurses.

By the hospital administration’s reckoning, Majuro Hospital is 24 nurses short of being staffed to provide minimum services. The staffing level that they’d like is a level they know that government budgets won’t allow. The reality of this situation is that often nurses are left to work double shifts (16 hours or more) for lack of staff. We will refrain from making the obvious comments about what this may mean for performance and patient service, because it is self-evident. Unfortunately, this may also be feeding the perception among younger Marshallese that nursing is not a very desirable profession.

A recruitment drive more than a year ago by the now-defunct U.S. federally-funded School to Work program seems to have generated a good deal of interest in nursing among graduating high school students, a number of whom have signed up for health-related courses in the non-credit side of the College of the Marshall Islands program. If some or most of these students are able to improve their academic performance and move up to credit-level courses, then the nursing program at CMI may see its ranks begin to swell. This year, however, there will be no Marshallese graduating from the CMI nursing program; the number of Marshallese nursing graduates over the past several years has been countable on one hand.

Hospital nurses are doing outreach to local schools to stimulate interest in nursing. Majuro Hospital is also beginning an advertising campaign to promote medical and nursing professions to Marshallese, and is proposing to raise the salaries of these professionals to increase the interest of Marshallese in a variety of health-related jobs that are currently waiting for qualified people to fill.

Getting more Marshallese studying to be health and medical professionals can’t happen soon enough.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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