Jail feels strain of nurse shortages

Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana all rank in the top ten for states with the most severe nursing shortages in 2021. But the impacts are not only felt in hospitals as jails are also feeling the strain.

Burleigh Morton County Detention Center is down from three nurses to just one.

A single nurse now takes care of inmate prescriptions, daily health assessments and emergency care. She gets help from others, but it’s a strain on the department.

“The population that comes in here are people that deal with substance abuse or mental illness and the officers aren’t trained, nor is it their job or do they go to school, to be medical assistance in these types of situations,” said correctional nurse for Burleigh Morton County Detention Center Amanda Thompson.

Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben says inmates are usually transported to the hospital if a nurse is not available so that they can receive proper medical care. This increases costs.

“Especially the nursing side of it, it’s kind of an island. We’re not like a hospital where surgery can draw from neonatal, or intensive care can draw from the emergency room,” said Leben.

Registered nursing is the fifth-most in-demand job in the workforce so far in 2021, according to LinkedIn, which has left smaller facilities to face off against larger ones.

“It’s just basically the amount of people competing for nursing positions out there, and we’re just one agency out of the hospitals, the clinics, all different situations where we are trying to hire nurses, but so is everybody else,” added Leben.

Leben adds that many RNs don’t go to nursing school with plans to work in a correctional department, but the work is necessary. “It’s not what most people think it is. It’s not scary. It’s a very rewarding job and it’s a fun environment with a lot of variety,” said Thompson.

The department plans to train individuals to distribute medication until they can fill the positions.

For more information on open positions, contact the Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department.

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