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If you dream of working as a nurse in paradise, becoming a registered nurse (RN) in Hawaii may be the career for you. The island state offers gorgeous scenery and a relaxed lifestyle in additional to opportunities to launch an enriching and stable nursing career.

This comprehensive guide breaks down exactly how to earn RN licensure and begin practicing as a nurse in Hawaii.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To become an RN in Hawaii, you must complete a qualifying nursing degree program, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, apply for RN licensure through the Hawaii Board of Nursing, and meet other Hawaii RN licensure requirements related to background checks and continuing education credits.

Earn a Qualifying Nursing Degree in Hawaii

Types of Nursing Degrees

There are several common types of nursing degrees available in Hawaii that can lead to becoming a licensed nurse:

  • Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN): Typically a 2-year program at a community college or technical school.
  • Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN): Typically a 4-year program at a university.
  • Accelerated BSN: A faster-paced BSN program for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, usually taking 12-18 months.
  • Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN): Advanced degrees for specializing as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, etc. Requirements vary by specialization.

The minimum requirement to qualify for RN licensure in Hawaii is an ADN or BSN. Many employers nowadays prefer candidates with a BSN though.

Nursing Programs and Schools in Hawaii

There are over 10 accredited nursing programs across Hawaii offering ADN, BSN, MSN, and certificate programs. Some top options include:

  • University of Hawaii at Manoa: The main UH campus offers BSN, MSN and PhD nursing programs.
  • Hawaii Pacific University: Located in Honolulu, HPU offers BSN and MSN programs.
  • Chaminade University of Honolulu: Offers BSN, MSN and certificate programs in nursing.
  • Kapi’olani Community College: Leading community college for ADN and LPN programs.

When researching schools, be sure to check that the program is approved by the Hawaii State Board of Nursing. Hands-on clinical training should also be included in addition to coursework.

Earning Your Degree

Once enrolled in a Hawaii nursing program, you’ll need to complete all required credits and clinical hours over 2-4 years depending on the program type and format. Course topics typically include:

  • Fundamentals of Nursing
  • Health Assessment
  • Adult Health Nursing
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Community Health
  • Nursing Research
  • Nursing Leadership & Management

Programs often require 500+ hours of direct hands-on experience in healthcare settings under the supervision of a nursing instructor. This allows students to apply knowledge and develop clinical skills.

Upon successful completion of all program requirements, students are awarded either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Graduates then become eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and apply for nursing licensure through the Hawaii Board of Nursing.

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Register and Schedule Your NCLEX Exam

After graduating from an accredited nursing program, the next step to becoming a licensed nurse is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). To take the exam in Hawaii, you must first create an online account on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website and register for the NCLEX.

The registration includes paying the $200 test fee and authorizing Hawaii as your licensing state. You can then use the NCSBN web portal to locate a Pearson VUE professional testing center in Hawaii and schedule a date and time to take the computerized NCLEX exam.

Prepare for the NCLEX-RN

Working nurses (and anyone who appreciates clever humor) know the key to success is top-notch preparation! Effective NCLEX prep demands understanding the exam’s specific question structure, content emphasis, and scoring method.

The NCLEX uses alternate format questions—like multiple response, fill in the blank, hotspot illustration, and audio clips—to test clinical judgement and decision-making capabilities real nurses require.

Applicants can prepare by

  • Taking NCLEX practice tests
  • Using test prep books and study guides
  • Enrolling in in-person or online review courses
  • The NCSBN reports a national 2021 NCLEX-RN pass rate of 82.1%. However, pass rates for first time test takers from Hawaii schools reached 95% in 2022! 🥳

    Take and Pass the NCLEX

    On exam day, get plenty of rest and fuel up with a healthy breakfast. Arrive early at the test center with valid ID, and focus on breathing deeply during the tutorial. The computer ends the test when it calculates with 95% certainty that you have demonstrated the essential nursing abilities.

    Within weeks you can check your test results online. If you pass, congratulations RN! 👏👍 Time to enter an amazing, rewarding nursing career! If not, brush up on weaker topics and schedule a retake. Statistically, 47.5% of repeat NCLEX testers pass on their second try.

    With perseverance, Hawaiian nurses always mana’olana pono (remain hopeful) for success!

    Apply for RN Licensure in Hawaii

    Licensure Requirements in Hawaii

    To become a registered nurse (RN) in Hawaii, you must meet the following key requirements:

    • Graduate from an accredited nursing program with an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN)
    • Pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
    • Submit fingerprints for an FBI criminal background check
    • Provide proof of U.S. citizenship or immigration status

    Hawaii has relatively straightforward RN licensure requirements compared to some states. As long as you meet the core criteria above, you should be on track for licensing.

    Submit Your Hawaii RN License Application

    Once you’ve graduated from nursing school and passed the NCLEX-RN, you can apply for RN licensure through the Hawaii State Board of Nursing. Here are the key steps:

    1. Create an account on the board’s online application system
    2. Submit your completed application form along with the $100 nonrefundable application fee
    3. Ask your nursing program to submit an official transcript showing you graduated
    4. Register with Pearson VUE to take the NCLEX-RN and have your results submitted directly to the board
    5. Complete a criminal background check through a board-approved vendor
    6. Mail any other required documentation, like proof of citizenship or legal residency

    The Hawaii nursing board encourages applicants to pre-verify their eligibility before applying to smooth the process. Once approved, your RN license will be valid for two years before needing to be renewed.

    Fees for Licensure

    In addition to the $100 application fee, you’ll have to pay other smaller administrative fees. These include:

    • $60 criminal background check fee
    • $10 license verification fee per request
    • Variable NCLEX-RN registration and testing fees

    The costs add up, but becoming an RN is a valuable long-term investment in your healthcare career. The average registered nurse salary in Hawaii is $104,900 per year, significantly above the national RN average of $82,750!

    Hawaii $104,900
    National Average $82,750

    With Hawaii’s pleasant climate and projected nursing job growth, obtaining RN licensure can lead to an amazing career caring for patients across the beautiful Hawaiian islands.

    Maintain Your Hawaii RN License

    Renew Your License

    To continue practicing as a registered nurse in Hawaii, you must renew your RN license every two years. The Hawaii Board of Nursing will mail you a renewal notice 60 days before your license expires. To renew, you simply need to:

    • Complete the renewal application form
    • Pay the renewal fee (currently $60)
    • Meet any continuing education requirements (see below)

    You can also renew your Hawaii nursing license online for convenience. As long as you renew before your expiration date, you can continue working under your current license until the renewed one arrives.

    If your license does accidentally lapse, you may be eligible for late renewal within one year after expiration.

    Complete Continuing Education Hours

    Hawaii requires licensed RNs to complete one of the following continuing education options each renewal period:

    • 30 contact hours applicable to nursing practice
    • Completion of a formal academic nursing course
    • Certification relevant to nursing practice

    These requirements help ensure that Hawaii nurses stay up-to-date on medical knowledge and maintain excellent patient care standards. Many convenient CE options exist, including online courses, seminars, academic classes, and independent studies.

    Be sure to keep thorough documentation of all educational activities you complete.

    Maintaining an active Hawaii nursing license ensures you preserve your legal ability to practice as an RN. By renewing your license and completing continuing education regularly, you continue upholding high competence and knowledge standards for the nursing profession.

    Find a Nursing Job in Hawaii

    Research Healthcare Facilities and Open Positions

    There are many excellent healthcare facilities in Hawaii looking to hire talented nurses. Conduct online research to find hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical centers that interest you.

    Large healthcare systems in Hawaii include Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queen’s Health Systems, and Kaiser Permanente. Check their career sites for current nursing openings. You can also search popular job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor to find lots of listings for Hawaii nursing roles.

    When researching potential employers, look closely at the work environment, employee reviews, salary and benefits offered, scheduling flexibility, opportunities for career advancement, and culture of caring.

    Find a healthcare institution that aligns with your skills, passions, lifestyle needs, and career goals in nursing.

    Apply and Interview for Nursing Roles

    Once you have researched and identified nursing positions of interest at healthcare facilities in Hawaii, apply and interview for the roles that feel like a good fit. When applying, carefully craft your nursing resume to highlight your clinical experience, nursing skills, certifications, passion for caring for patients, teamwork ability, and any special qualities that would make you an asset to the organization.

    Prepare for nursing interviews by practicing answering commonly asked questions about your motivations for nursing, how you would handle challenging patient care scenarios, examples of providing compassionate care, and your strengths in areas like critical thinking, communication, and remaining calm under pressure.

    Research tips on acing interviews for Hawaii-based nursing jobs to make a positive, memorable impression.

    Consider Locum Tenens Work

    Locum tenens provides a flexible temporary work option for nurses who want to experience living and working in different locales. Healthcare facilities hire locum tenens nurses to fill vacancies and staffing needs for a set period of time, ranging from a few weeks up to a year.

    It allows you freedom to choose when and where you work. Assignments could have you exploring multiple islands and healthcare settings within Hawaii.

    Locum tenens work is ideal for nurses who crave variety and spontenaiety in their careers and lifestyles. It allows you to expand your nursing competencies by working in diverse settings, while having months or periods of time fully free to spend as you wish traveling, pursuing hobbies, or being with family and friends before embarking on your next locum assignment in Hawaii or elsewhere you want to discover.


    Following the steps above will set you on the path to become a registered nurse in beautiful Hawaii. With palm trees and beaches surrounding your workplace, you can launch a fulfilling nursing career helping patients while enjoying island life.

    Use this guide to earn your Hawaii nursing license and paradise may await you!

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