The Heart of Health Care

National Nurses Week may only be celebrated once a year, but the dedication of these individuals goes far beyond a single week.

If you’ve ever stayed in the hospital, undergone a procedure or visited a clinic, then you have been touched by the care of a nurse.

While their comforting presence can be overlooked, nurses play a key role in health care, and in turn the greater community. Whether it’s advocating for patients or promoting healthy lifestyles, nurses are invaluable.

Of the more than 2,300 licensed registered nurses at Hawai‘i Pacific Health, 1,728 provide direct care to patients at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, Kaua‘i’s Wilcox Medical Center and clinics across the islands.

While some nurses have been with HPH for several months, others have been on board for more than 40 years. About 50% of HPH’s nurses have been providing patient care for more than a decade, and about 15% for more than 20 years.

“Our nurses go above and beyond every day in so many ways,” says Amy Thomas, HPH’s system chief nurse executive. “They are not only known for their compassion and commitment to providing high-quality care, they are also leaders in seeking and instilling excellence in our profession. Many of our nurses participate in continuous education opportunities to advance their degrees, volunteer to train and mentor new nurses, and obtain additional specialty national certifications to ensure the highest levels of care for our community.”

HPH also has invested in the next generation of nurses by offering nursing academies and training programs for local students. It understands the importance of immersing nursing students in specialty training because that leads to enhanced competence among new nurses.

But the health care organization doesn’t just provide opportunities to students — it takes care of its own nursing staff and offers professional development tools in addition to tuition reimbursements.

“Our nurses also belong to professional nursing organizations, publish research and move the science of nursing forward through evidence-based practice projects,” Thomas says. “We are so proud of our nursing workforce at HPH, and we truly thank them for their commitment to excellence!”

To acknowledge the dedication of these hard workers and celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), MidWeek is presenting the following profiles on five nurses from HPH’s various medical centers and clinics.

Meet Tiara Kali of Wilcox Medical Center on Kauaʻi, Lori Conley of Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women & Children, Alma Mancini of Pali Momi Medical Center, Charmaine Oshiro of Straub Medical Center, and Rochelle Bartolome- Steffens of Straub Medical Center – Kapolei Clinic & Urgent Care.

Utilizing Compassion

Tiara Kali, RN
Wilcox Medical Center

Growing up on Kaua‘i, Tiara Kali spent a significant amount of time in hospitals because both her mother and sister had chronic health conditions. During these vulnerable moments, Kali recalls the kindness her family received from the nursing staff.

“Hospitals can be scary for kids, but the nurses made me feel so comfortable,” Kali shares. “I remember one nurse just holding my hand and telling me, ‘It’s OK.’ Feeling that compassion during those difficult times inspired me at a very young age to become a nurse.”

Kali got her start at Wilcox Medical Center nearly five years ago. Since then, she’s been building strong relationships with patients.

“It’s the feeling of knowing that I was there to help someone through a painful and challenging time and that, hopefully, I made it a bit easier for them,” says the resource nurse for Wilcox’s Medical Surgical Unit. “Some patients are scared to accept health care in the first place, so helping them understand that they’re going to be OK is very rewarding.

I’m a strong believer in compassion and humility, because once you have that, you can connect with any patient.”

While Kali found her calling at a young age, she also reveals that it’s always been her goal to work at Wilcox. To those hoping to join the nursing field, she says, “Know your standard of care and never deviate from it. Always start your shift with a positive attitude and be prepared for anything. Also, don’t ever be afraid to ask questions.”

Kali notes that she doesn’t have one particular hero in the medical field because she believes everyone in the profession is someone to be admired.

“It takes a special person to say, ‘I’m going to serve my community today,’” she says.

Always Learning

Lori Conley, RN
Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children

Lori Conley comes from a Wai‘anae farming family and was raised with a strong work ethic. Her interest in the nursing field blossomed when she was 20 years old. At the time, she was working a retail job but realized it wasn’t the path for her.

So, she went to school to become a licensed practical nurse. She landed a role in the newborn nursery at Kapi‘olani Medical Center and quickly knew the profession fit. She then moved to the medical center’s pediatric oncology department and the rest is history.

“When you find something you love, you stick with it,” Conley explains. “I really enjoy working with the kids and the families. You see them during the most challenging times, but you find out how strong and resilient children really are.”

While Conley has been a nurse for more than 40 years, she says she’s still constantly learning and travels across the country to attend yearly nursing conferences.

“Nurses can make such a huge difference in our patients’ lives,” she says. “To do that, we have to bring our best selves forward every day. We need to stay on top of our education and continue to learn and grow so that we can support our patients.

“My favorite part of the job is when I’ve had my busiest day, and my patient and his or her family says, ‘Thank you,’” Conley continues. “You feel like you mattered to a child and that what you did somehow made a difference.”

To Conley, being a nurse isn’t just a job or a career — it’s a part of who she is as a person. She enjoys being at patients’ bedsides and especially loves that Kapi‘olani is able to provide such high-quality care, thus allowing families to stay close to home instead of traveling to the mainland for health care.

It’s All Worth It

Alma Mancini, RN
Pali Momi Medical Center

Alma Mancini grew up in Kalihi and moved to Pearl City when she was a sophomore in high school. She initially wanted to become a nurse because all her friends had the same desire, too. But Mancini soon realized she didn’t want to be a nurse just to follow the crowd — she wanted to make a difference in the community.

When a friend asked her what her goal was, she replied, “I believe my purpose in life is to help people.”

To pursue nursing, Mancini attended Leeward Community College and then went on to University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Fast-forward to today and Mancini is a charge nurse in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.

She acknowledges numerous heroes who helped shape her into the nurse she is today. Ernie Libarios, Mancini’s college counselor, is one of the standout individuals in her life who never gave up on her.

“He guided and empowered me to reach my goal to become a nurse. He believed in me,” Mancini shares. “I had the chance to thank him for all his help before he passed away. I will forever be grateful.”

She especially relishes seeing patients’ reactions after they wake up from the anesthesia.

“It’s rewarding telling patients their procedure is done and seeing the happiness and relief on their faces,” she says. “I feel like I’m the one who gives them the good news that the hard part is finished.”

Being part of a close-knit community is important to Mancini. It’s why she enjoys being at Pali Momi. “My team is the best,” she says.

For those who aspire to join the medical field as a nurse, Mancini offers the following advice: “Persevere. You need to keep moving forward. It’s never easy. It’s never smooth. It’s just life in general. But if you know what you want, go for it.”

A Team Player

Charmaine Oshiro, RN
Straub Medical Center

It’s always been all things nursing for Charmaine Oshiro. She attended a career fair in the ninth grade and it was there that she became captivated by the industry. From writing research papers about Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, to watching medical TV shows in high school, Oshiro knew her life would be dedicated to caring for others.

Fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse was challenging, but thanks to a strong support system, she made it happen.

“I worked hard to prove to myself that I could do it and to be able to give my kids all the opportunities I did not have,” Oshiro explains. “I’m so happy with all that I have accomplished; I would never change any of it.

“I care for a variety of people every day,” Oshiro says of her endoscopy charge nurse duties. “It isn’t always easy, but I’ve made it my goal to always make every patient feel like they’ve gotten the best care that I could give.”

When asked about her favorite part of the job, Oshiro notes that her coworkers make it easy for her to come to work each morning.

“It means a lot to me to be a part of a team that works so well together,” Oshiro says. “I not only have support from people in my department, but also have the privilege of working in a medical center where so many people share the same values and passion for patient care.

“I have been a patient at Straub since I was a child. Now, I bring my entire family to Straub,” Oshiro adds.

She urges aspiring nurses to never give up and to take it one day at a time.

“It is all worth it in the end,” Oshiro says. “I was on a slow path to nursing. It was a long, bumpy road, but it all worked out. Nursing is a very fulfilling career.”

Coming Full Circle

Rochelle Bartolome-Steffens, RN
Straub Medical Center – Kapolei Clinic & Urgent Care

Born and raised in the Philippines, Rochelle Bartolome-Steffens was always interested in medicine and health care. Her parents emphasized that family, faith and a good education were more important than wealth.

At 13, Bartolome-Steffens spent her recess and lunch periods in the school library soaking up knowledge about pediatric diseases. As she grew up, several close relatives became ill — including her grandfather, who had lung cancer — so Bartolome-Steffens spent a lot of time in medical facilities.

“Being in and out of the hospital and witnessing the care they received made me want to care for others,” she explains. “I saw that nurses have the opportunity to not only help patients, but also to support their family.”

Fifteen years ago, Bartolome-Steffens moved to Hawai‘i with her husband. In 2012, she became a licensed practical nurse and, four years later, a registered nurse. But like many others in her profession, her journey was not easy.

From 5 a.m. wake-up calls to riding the bus from Pearl City to Kapi‘olani Community College, Bartolome-Steffens juggled her work and school schedules while caring for her 2-year-old daughter.

Bartolome-Steffens gave birth prematurely to her second daughter, who spent two months in the Intensive Care Unit at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women & Children.

“She received great care from all the nurses. They inspired me,” Bartolome-Steffens says of the nursing staff. “My goal after graduating as an LPN was always to work at Hawai‘i Pacific Health.”

Ultimately, Bartolome-Steffens did just that. She mentions that her favorite part about being at Straub’s Kapolei Clinic is the work culture.

“I love my colleagues,” she says. “They each have individual strengths, but we are even stronger as a team.”