SDSU accepts more nursing students


Jana L. Haas

The SDSU College of Nursing and Sioux Falls hospitals are working together to address the nursing shortage in South Dakota.

SDSU is now accepting more students into its nursing programs in Brookings and Rapid City.

Fewer students are going into nursing now and the elderly population that needs care is increasing.

The current nursing shortage is part of a “very cyclical process. There was a huge nursing shortage in the late 1980s. It has peaked and valleyed since then,” said Trish Dougherty, director of Human Resources at Avera McKennan Hospital and University Health Center.

The College of Nursing now receives funding from the South Dakota Legislature for 48 students in Brookings and 40 students in Rapid City to enter the nursing program.

Through a reallocation of internal funds, the nursing department at SDSU has added 16 on-campus positions to the basic undergraduate program for each fall and spring semester.

Previously, 48 students were accepted each semester to the Brookings program. Eight positions were also added to the Rapid City program, for a new total of 48 nursing student spots in Rapid City.

The nursing students in Rapid City usually come from the pre-nursing programs offered at Black Hills State University and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, which both have a cooperative arrangement with SDSU.

Also, 32 non-nursing degree students were accepted into the program Sept. 3, 2002.

The program was previously only open to pre-nursing majors.

Of the non-nursing students admitted, 53 percent had a bachelor’s degree in biology. These students are in the program for 12 months, take 63 credits, and are then able to sit for a Registered Nurse licensure.

Avera McKennan is also doing a variety of things to address the nursing shortage, said Dougherty.

The hospital provides nurses to help with clinicals, and 40 scholarships to students each year. The scholarships are for $5,000 per year. Approximately 80 students apply.

The scholarships are divided out to University of South Dakota, SDSU, andAugustana College.

According to Dougherty, nearly 50 percent of the scholarships went to SDSU this year.

“We work with the college and the [SDSU] Foundation. We provide large amounts of money to support them,” said Dougherty.

Avera Mckennan supports education programs and provides tuition reimbursement for its current employees, along with trying to be more flexible. The hospital hires a large portion of SDSU’s nursing students upon graduation from the program.

“I think that health care employers are trying to be really flexible as far as schedules and benefits. We want our employees to have a healthy life balance and still having the patients taken care of,” Dougherty said.

All nursing students participate in clinical field experiences during each of their five semesters in the program. The clinical experience allows students to practice real-world nursing techniques by providing nursing care to individuals or groups under the supervision of faculty who are licensed with at least a master’s degree.

Students go to different local settings including Brookings, Madison, and Sioux Falls hospitals. They can also go to community-based agencies like senior citizens centers, elementary and secondary schools, and long-term care facilities.

Students do a variety of things during their clinicals. They give Hepatitis B vaccines, teach winter safety and hand-washing, and take care of patients in intensive care units.

“The clinical experiences are really a teaching opportunity so students can work with faculty with hands-on experience and communicate with other healthcare workers,” Lois Tschetter, assistant nursing professor, said.

The South Dakota Board of Nursing restricts the clinical groups to eight students to allow closer faculty-student contact.

As the number of students accepted into the nursing program increases, more faculty must be hired to work with the students.

With every additional eight students accepted, SDSU must hire another .5-full-time employee. Funds for additional faculty come from the nursing department budget

“We find people with master’s degrees in nursing and who are experts in clinicals that can help us,” Dr. Roberta K. Olson, dean for the College of Nursing, said.

#1.887785:2459371751.jpg:baby.jpg:Nursing student Aletha Gengler and instructor Lois Tschetter give a baby his check-up. Hands-on experience is a big part of nursing training. :