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Guam faces nursing shortage

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As nurses are celebrated nationwide, there's a local concern about the shortage of nurses our nation faces.

Wednesday marks the beginning of National Nurses Week. Juliette Quinene, chief nurse for the Department of Education, told KUAM News, "Although today is National School Nurses Day, this also coincides with Worldwide Nurses Week, which starts on May 6 and ends on May 12." Nursing is a challenging career that requires a lot of hard work and compassion. At DOE, you have to be a registered nurse with a four-year degree, as well as two years of experience, and continual professional development.

However, nursing positions at our schools seem to be high in demand. "We are very fortunate and blessed at the Department of Education - all our positions are full," Quinene confirmed.

Yet other institutions on Guam are struggling to fill positions due to an islandwide nursing shortage. KUAM News spoke with a senior Intensive Care Unit nurse at the Guam Memorial Hospital who said finding nurses with specialized training is difficult. GMH has implemented a new cross-training program to help alleviate the need.

Executive director of the Guam Nurses Association Glynis Almonte said, "Especially now that we have a new hospital opening up, I think in the next two weeks, we really need more nurses."

Aside from GMH, the pending opening of the Guam Regional Medical Center will exacerbate the existing need. According to GRMC chief nursing officer Alan Funtanilla, the new hospital plans to hire 350 new RNs, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants. Because there is such a limited labor pool on Guam, the hospital will likely have to look elsewhere for qualified applicants. "At the University of Guam we only have one nursing program, for BSN, and we have Guam Community College for the practical nursing," said Almonte.

While UOG will graduate 32 students with a bachelor of science in nursing this year, it is a far cry from the number of nurses our island needs. "We need you, we have a community here who needs nurses," Almonte said.

But it seems to be a nationwide issue. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, a shortage of RNs is expected to grow to 260,000 by 2025, making it twice as large as any nursing shortage experienced in the country since the mid-1960's. Almonte encourages more people to pursue nursing, as there is a pressing need, and the job market is thriving.

"Go for it," she said. "Complete your studies, get your license."

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