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CHI St. Alexius Health Garrison Becomes Training Site for Dakota Nursing Program

By Alyssa Adam, McLean County Independent

Treating a Nursing Shortage

Those in the Garrison area who wanted to be a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Registered Nurse, but weren't able to go to college, may get a second chance.

CHI St. Alexius Health-Garrison is participating in a statewide nursing program, hoping to aid in the area's shortage of nurses. The Dakota Nursing Program, aiding students in getting their LPN certification, offered by CHI, is facilitated by Bismarck State College.

According to CHI Administrator Todd Graeber, several colleges are involved with different rural outreach areas. “One of the biggest problem is that there is a huge national shortage in nursing,” Graeber said. “North Dakota has a huge shortage.”

The age of nurses is getting to the point where they are retiring, Graeber said. “There is nobody to fill those roles,” he said.

Part of the problem, Graeber said, is that the colleges can't take a large number of students. “There are people who want to go into nursing, but there aren't enough spots,” he said. “The schools get way more applications than they have spots for.”

The Dakota Nursing program trains candidates in local facilities.

“What we originally started with getting some grant money to help some of our really stand-out CNAs, who what to go to be a nurse, and can't just up and leave and go to college,” he said. “All the sudden we have this opportunity to host a program here.” Two days per week, students go to class at CHI, through an interactive television and online blackboard program. “We hire an on-site instructor and site manager and she sets up clinical labs each week,” Graeber said. “They do those labs on-site.”

To be accepted into the program, students must apply through BSC and be accepted there, after all requirements are met. “Next fall, we will start the first class,” Graeber said. “It takes 11 months and students will come out to be a practical nurse, then they can test out to be an LPN.”

Partnering with the CHI facility in Turtle Lake and the Benedictine Living Center of Garrison, a total of eight students may participate in the program. “It is pretty neat,” Graeber said. “It is not restricted to people who just work here, it can be anyone in the community who is interested in nursing.”

Graeber said if the program goes well this year, an RN program my follow next year. “We would go every other year, doing LPN then RN,” he said. “We also have some LPNs in the community that are interested in getting their RN certification.”

According to Graeber, participating in the Dakota Nursing Program is just as good as going to on-campus classes, if not better. “The preceptor for the program, Anne Paulson, said the nurses who train on the rural site get better hands-on experiences,” he said. “Because they are located in a hospital, they can ask the doctor if they can observe and learn.” Graeber said it is a more collaborative program as students can participate in rounds and other day-to-day facility activities.

“We are super excited about this program,” Graeber said. “We are just giving some people a chance to get an education and earn higher wages while getting better jobs and staying within the community.”