Hawaiian Culture Competency Tips for Travel Nurses

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By Medical Staffing Solutions, LLC

October 10, 2019



Cultural Competency for Travel Nurses- Hawaii Edition

This article provided by: Medical Staffing Solutions LLC

Some of the most sought-after healthcare travel contracts are in Hawaii! 

What many healthcare professionals do not know is, the cultural differences from the mainland can result in unique challenges during a travel contract. During the time we have been staffing in Hawaii, we have received feedback from our travelers about how to be successful – and we want to share their secrets with you!


Family in Hawaiian culture is different than on the mainland.  It is not uncommon for patients to have a family member stay with them and have multiple family members visit every day.  In Hawaii, they do not place their elderly in LTC facilities until caring for them at home is impossible. This causes an increase in the acuity of the patients being cared for. It is important to be accepting of a patient’s family involvement and encourage them to openly ask questions.  Learn about your patient and their family, as these relationships are very important in Hawaii.


Some of the permanent staff have become very fatigued by having so many travelers in and out. Show them you are committed to completing your contract and you are there to work!  It is easy to become distracted by the beauty of Hawaii, but do not request time off work to enjoy activities around the islands.  Work is first – play is second!  Demonstrate your commitment to your contract by being on time every day, maintain a flexible schedule, and always be willing to help your co-workers.


Always remember that you are a guest in the facility.  Do not compare your contract position to your previous jobs.  The permanent staff have been known to tell travelers, “we are not set up for the people of the mainland, we are set up for the people of Hawaii.”  Native Hawaiians are proud of their heritage, as well as the care they provide for their people.


It can be considered rude or aggressive to speak with a loud or animated voice.  Likewise, exaggerated body language and communicating with your hands may be considered disrespectful and intimidating. The people of Hawaii tend to prefer softer tones and more relaxed voices.  Also, be mindful of your pace of speech.  For many in Hawaii, English is not their first language, which makes it difficult for them to understand you if you speak too quickly.


In Hawaiian culture, if someone offers you food, they are offering you friendship.  Not accepting a food offering may unintentionally communicate that you do not accept their friendship.  Whether from a patient, a patient’s family, or a co-worker, if ever presented with food, it is wise to accept it.  You may even wish to bring a treat in to work for your co-workers to fit in more quickly!


Hawaii is known for being a tropical environment, so it surprises many travelers that most housing and facilities do not have air conditioning.  This is because it is not humid like it is on the mainland, and those who live in Hawaii are accustomed to living without air-conditioning.  Many of the facilities offer open windows and walkways; some of our travelers even report that they need a light sweater in the evenings.


Depending on how remote the area you are staying in, it can be quite costly for the area to obtain supplies. We recommend budgeting to spend two or three times your normal budget for things like food and gas while on a travel assignment in Hawaii.

Fulfilling a healthcare contract in Hawaii can be a rewarding once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Once you settle in, and get to know your co-workers, you will likely develop friendships that will last a lifetime. Until the next wave… Mahalo friends!

We hope that this information on Hawaiian culture will help you with your next assignment in Hawaii. Or it makes your decision to travel to Hawaii a little easier! If you have traveled to Hawaii and have more tips on Hawaiian culture, or things to do or see please comment them below!

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