A Key Part Of Hawaii’s Nursing Workforce Is Shrinking Fast … Even before the pandemic, licensed practical nurses, who do much of the work at long-term care facilities, were calling it quits.

Licensed practical nurses, the workers who are a central cog of care at long-term care facilities, are leaving the workforce in droves, raising serious concerns about who will provide hands-on care for Hawaii’s disabled and elderly in coming years.

These are the workers responsible, and legally qualified under state law, for administering medications and performing treatments that doctors and higher-level nurses have prescribed, including replacing bandages, cleaning wounds, handling IVs and changing catheters and colostomy bags. They are normally a common sight in nursing homes, pushing carts laden with meds through the halls and stopping to talk to each patient to make sure they take each pill on the right schedule.

While registered nurses are key administrators who oversee medical care and respond to health crises, LPNs are the point people who daily address the health care needs of sick people living in care facilities.

In 2019, there were 2,669 licensed practical nurses in Hawaii, according to statistics from the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, which administers professional occupational licenses. But when license renewal time rolled around this summer, even before the delta variant hit, the number had fallen to 1,623.

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