With Fargo-Moorhead hospitals expanding, shortage of nurses worsens

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The Red River Valley is seeing its medical facilities grow, but the number of nurses is not keeping up with the demand.

WDAY reports the need for nurses is skyrocketing with both Sanford Health and Essentia Health having dozens of unfilled jobs.

Sanford is building a new $500 million medical center in Fargo. Essentia is adding a new wing,

The shortage is not new, but it's also not going away – in spite of stepped-up recruiting aimed at alleviating the problem. WDAY says the sign-up bonuses offered by Sanford top out at $15,000.

While it hasn't erased the nursing shortage, hospital officials say the more aggressive recruiting has made a difference. In March the Forum spoke with a nurse who was enticed to Fargo from Hawaii. Kelly Robinson explained that she would have had to spend a year as a nursing assistant in Hawaii. Instead she headed for Sanford in Fargo, where she stepped into an immediate hands-on role on a medical-surgical floor.

Farther west, nurses are on the long list of jobs that are in high demand in North Dakota's oil patch. A hospital in Minot made a recruiting trip to the Philippines and hired 86 new nurses in one fell swoop.

Several factors contribute to the gap in the nursing supply and demand. The most fundamental one is the aging population. As Baby Boomers move into retirement, their medical needs are growing. The Forum says North Dakota has the country's highest proportion of residents aged 85 or older.

What's more, that big group of people who are starting to retire includes a lot of nurses. The American Nursing Association says more than 50 percent of the country's nurses are nearing retirement. The need to fill those shoes makes expanding the number of nurses more difficult. So even though we've been hearing about a nursing shortage for years, the ANA tells us it's not going away anytime soon.

All of this means it's a good time to be coming out of nursing school. The dean of North Dakota State University's school of nursing tells WDAY the job market for her students is wide open.

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