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Demand for nursing services greater than ever, says Governor

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called for full support by government directors in recognition of the nursing profession set for next week, as the territory joins the nation in observance of National Nurses Week and urged his cabinet to reach out to young people to consider this profession as a career path.


The governor told directors during last week’s cabinet meeting that nurses will be recognized this month and directors will be asked to be part of the special celebration starting with a church service on Sunday. He says invitations will be sent to directors, who are expected to take part in the events scheduled for nurses and “make them (the nurses) feel important”.


“We also have to find ways of reaching out to our young people to have some interest in the [nursing] profession,” he said and noted that this is one profession where, when older nurses retire, he's not seeing "any new interest at all.”


“So we have to find nurses from the Philippines, or find nurses from somewhere else,” he said.


“So all of us who are involved, or have something do to with nursing”—for instance the American Samoa Community College and the Department of Education—are the major players in this area, and he encouraged them to do everything possible to attract more young people to be interested in the nursing profession.


Lolo says he has been informed that there are not enough instructors for the nursing program at ASCC and he urged the college to get more of them recruited. “Let us know what we can do to make those courses for our people. We’ll find ways to take care of them,” he said.


Lolo this week signed a proclamation declaring May 6-10 as National Nurses Week in American Samoa under the theme, “Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care”. He says with nearly 3.1 million registered nurses in the U.S. and approximately 150 licensed nurses in American Samoa, nurses comprise the largest healthcare profession.


“...the demand for licensed nursing services will be greater than ever because of the aging of our territory’s existing cadre of nurses, the continuing expansion of life-sustaining technology, and the explosive growth of home healthcare services,” the governor said.


Additionally,“more qualified licensed nurses will be needed in the future to meet the progressively complex needs of healthcare consumers in our community,” he stated.


Former governor Togiola Tulafono had also pushed during his years as chief executive  to attract young students to be interested in the nursing profession, as nurses were needed by both LBJ Medical Center and the Department of Health.


Over the years some of the retired nurses have returned to work due to the shortage in the territory and LBJ has been forced to look at other U.S. jurisdictions as well as foreign countries such as the Philippines to hire nurses.


Testimony by LBJ management in Fono hearings and elsewhere revealed that it has been difficult to recruit nurses and physicians due to the low pay scale in the territory. They further testified that American Samoa is competing with other U.S. jurisdictions to attract nurses and physicians. Another problem is that many of the nurses, who successfully become U.S. registered nurses through the ASCC nursing program, often leave island in pursuit of higher pay.