Workforce issues squeezing ND industry

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BISMARCK, N.D. - The U.S. created 155,000 jobs in November, with the bulk of that growth in health care, business and manufacturing. Here in North Dakota, the registered nurse market is rapidly expanding, with a projected need of 4,000 nurses by 2024.

The governor asked for more than $30 million in grants aimed at expanding opportunities. Only $750,000 was specifically labeled for nursing shortages-in rural areas.

We visited Bismarck State College, asking their nursing program what they need to turn shortage into surplus.

"We're going to need to be graduating an extra 370 nursing students every year over the next 10 years to be able to combat this nursing shortage," said Annie Paulson, BSC Nursing Program director.

By 2024, North Dakota is expected to have more than 2,000 new registered nurse jobs, and nearly that many that will need replacing. A daunting task starts with students.

"In the year and a half that I've been here, we've almost doubled our LPN program so we're in the process of expanding our opportunities for North Dakota students," said Tabitha Beede, adjunct professor and nurse.

More students need more faculty to keep student-to-teacher ratios in check. Finding the faculty is where Paulson says they run into trouble. Among reasons why, Paulson says there's no incentive for nurses to get their master's to teach, despite many wanting to.

"Without some sort of faculty loan repayment, it's a struggle for nurses to find the funds to go back to schools and advance their degree," said Paulson.

The Workforce Development Council submitted recommendations to the governor suggesting an increase in faculty salaries, which they say are 13-percent below the national average.

The council also suggested adding more resources to rural programs because nurses tend to stay close to where they go to school.