Jamie Boyd

Photo from Jamie Boyd

After working as a staff nurse and later a nurse practitioner, Jamie Kamailani Boyd began to notice one consistent, underlying problem for many of her patients: poverty.

“I realized that my sickest patients were the poorest. And I realized that, as a nurse practitioner, no matter how many prescriptions I write, you can’t change poverty,” Boyd recalls, adding that many ailments were preventable if patients had funds to get proper treatment.

Boyd herself had come from an economically disadvantaged background before becoming a nurse aide and eventually working her way up to earn an Ph.D. in nursing.

“I decided to hang up my lab coat and go where I could address poverty,” she says.

Today, as the health programs coordinator and associate professor at Windward Community College, Boyd runs a certified nursing program, Pathway out of Poverty, that she created to help students succeed. Pathway out of Poverty guides students to progress from a certified nurse aide (CNA) through licensed practical nurse (LPN) to registered nurse (RN), while emphasizing Native Hawaiian values. The program is designed to help disadvantaged students, with a particular focus on Native Hawaiians, attain economic stability through reaching higher-wage jobs in health care.

“You must allow the people of Hawaii, the indigenous people, to make a path to nursing where they can be successful without abandoning cultural ways of nursing,” Boyd says.

Since the launch in 2007, 24 students have become RNs, and it now has a 100 percent success rate for state boards. For her work, Boyd won the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Community Health Leaders Award in 2011. “The most rewarding thing is to (have) students who would have never seen the inside of a nursing lab graduating and getting jobs,” she says.

In addition to training students in practical nursing skills, Pathway also emphasizes community service and healthy living.

In honor of National Nurses’ Week (May 6-12), Hawaii State Center for Nursing (HSCN) recognizes Boyd for her contributions. “Jamie’s innovative work in advancing education, health and income for Native Hawaiians and other underserved students is key to improving long-term health outcomes,” says executive director of HSCN Deborah Gardner.

Like Boyd, many of the students in Pathway have endured hardships. “They describe themselves as ‘clawing’ their way out of poverty,” Boyd says of her Pathway out of Poverty students. “They have this tenacity – they say, ‘Now that I have one hand on the first rung, you can’t take me off.’

“It has been my personal promise to the universe that, because I got a chance to climb out of poverty from the nurse aide level all the way to a Ph.D., that I would continue to repay my debt,” she says.

For more on Pathway out of Poverty or to apply, visit nursingpathway.windward.hawaii.edu or call 235-7384.