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Wendy Reuer, Published December 22 2013

F-M area feeling the squeeze of growing nursing shortage

MOORHEAD – As the home of multiple assisted-living facilities, two major health systems and a new multi-million dollar hospital in the middle of construction, the Fargo-Moorhead area is feeling the squeeze of a national nursing shortage that is on the grow.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of registered nurses needed in North Dakota and Minnesota will grow by 22 percent by 2020, and there will be 2,500 job openings each year in the two states.

While those in the health industry are looking for qualified nurses to fill vacancies, the key to keeping up with demand is increasing education for nurses, said Dr. Joan Rich, director of nursing at Rasmussen College in St. Paul.

That is why the Moorhead campus of Rasmussen College will offer a professional nursing (RN) associate degree program at its Moorhead campus starting in January.

The college also launched the mobility bridge transfer option, which allows licensed practical nurses to transfer credits into an associate degree in nursing.

While Rasmussen has long offered the LPN degree, student interest led to this advanced degree, Maggie Aslakson, associate director of admissions in Moorhead said.

“We really wanted to meet that demand in the community,” she said.

But the demand for nursing is being felt nationwide.

A 2012 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one in five jobs nationwide relate to the health care field and of those, 75 percent are in nursing.

Rich said current estimates predict there will be a shortage of 700,000 nurses by 2020.

Much of the shortage is due to an aging workforce. As baby boomers grow out of the workforce and into retirement age, there are less people entering the field, Rich said. Population studies show that 10,000 adults will turn 65 years old each day until the year 2030.

In North Dakota and Minnesota, the average nurse’s age is 46.

“If you look at projected retirement age of 60, than 20 percent of LPN and RN nurses (here) will be retired soon,” Rich said.

The aging population means nurses are not only needed in traditional hospitals and clinic settings but also in elder-care facilities.

Grant Richardson, senior executive for development and community relations at Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo, said the need for nurses is high in elderly-care environments, especially in the metro.

“In terms of both licensed LPNs, RNs and CNAs, this is a tight market (in the metro),” he said. “There are a lot of health care facilities in this area. We’re all kind of competing for the same resources.”

That market will tighten further when Bethany opens its 38-bed skilled nursing expansion at Bethany on 42nd Street in January.

Richardson said 60 new positions were added to staff the facility, most of which are nurses.

While Bethany serves as a training facility for local institutions, last year the retirement community began its own certified nursing assistant licensing program.

Bethany also offers scholarship programs to staff who wish to further their education in nursing.

Rasmussen partners with health care facilities within a 90-mile radius of Fargo-Moorhead for hands-on student learning, said Allyson Hopperstad, dean of nursing at Rasmussen College in Moorhead.

The benefit of needing nurses in this area means job opportunities for graduates are abundant. Openings will grow again around 2017 when Sanford’s new 1-million-square-foot facility opens.

“Having a large facility like that will only increase job opportunities for our graduates,” Hopperstad said.

Students interested in applying are encouraged to attend a nursing information session at the Moorhead campus or visit www.rasmussen.edu/


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530