Nursing: a growing need in the area and across the state

The nursing shortage in North Dakota could become increasingly more evident if the proposed higher education budget is approved by legislators. If approved, Dickinson State University may cut their nursing program. DeeAnna Opstedahl, the vice pre...

The nursing shortage in North Dakota could become increasingly more evident if the proposed higher education budget is approved by legislators.

If approved, Dickinson State University may cut their nursing program.

DeeAnna Opstedahl, the vice president of Patient Care Services at CHI St. Alexius Health, said that if the program was eliminated, it would greatly affect the hospital in Dickinson.

"To be honest, it's devastating to me because we get most of our hires from there and especially our LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) are able to work here and are still able to go to school and get their BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing) which has been really nice for them," she said.

The DSU nursing department does not function like most other nursing departments because of the way they offer their two programs.
The department offers an associate in applied science in practical nursing program and a bachelor of science of nursing program, which gives students the ability to work while being a licensed LPN and work their way towards a registered nurse degree.


The university's nursing department also announced last week that the department would offer an online ADRN to BSN completion program for 10 students.
Opstedahl said that the hospital has a large amount of students who take advantage of this unique opportunity to work in their chosen field while working toward a higher degree.

"This program is unique to the fact that you can work as an LPN and make the money that an LPN makes to help pay for the BSN," she said. "That is a very unique program, and you don't see that very often. A lot of the universities you go, and you have to go for the whole four years, and then you get your BSN. Then if you want you can go on for your masters."

She said it is also beneficial for the hospital because it gives employers the opportunity to build relationships with students, teach them skills and know their work ethic while they are still finishing their education.
If the nursing program is cut, the hospital will have to start looking for graduates across the state and surrounding area, Opstedahl said.

She said that they do get hirees from places like California and other states but it is hard to retain those employees.

"The problem with that is, they stay with us for a couple of years to get their experience, and then they go back," she said. "A lot of nursing students that go here, from DSU, are from here and want to stay in the community. They want to be able to take care of people in the community that they grew up in."

Jan Kamphuis, the vice president of nursing at Sanford Health-Bismarck Region, said that the nursing shortage is a statewide issue.

"I particularly know that if you look in that state of North Dakota, all of the big organizations have multiple, multiple openings for nurses," she said. "There are positions across the whole state that nurses are needed, so new graduates can really have their pick of where they want to work if they want to stay in the state."

Kamphuis said the nursing shortage will only continue in the future with a bulk of health care workers becoming retirement age. The Health Resource and Services Administration projects that more than 1 million registered nurses will reach retirement age within 10 to 15 years.


"Back in the day women were kind of limited-they could be a teacher or a nurse, now there are millions of opportunities for them," she said.

Kamphuis went on to say that "we need every nursing program that we have in the state."
Opstedahl said that the nursing shortage is expected to get worse.

"Nursing was plush there for a while but we are going to go back to being short here again, like we were back in the late 80's," she said.

In 2015-2016, DSU had 32 students enrolled in the BSN program and 66 enrolled in the AASPN program.
Opstedahl said she hopes that everyone takes into consideration how much it could affect the Dickinson area to lose such a strong future nursing workforce that come from the area.
"I really hope they consider the community and how much it means for everybody to have people from the community taking care of people in the community," she said.

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