Job hunting easy for nursing majors

Lynn Klavetter

Lynn Klavetter

South Dakota has an increasing shortage of nurses in the state, according to the Dean of Nursing Roberta Olson.

South Dakota is not in a severe shortage yet, but if something isn’t done to increase the number of graduates, there will be a big problem, she said.

“In terms of South Dakota, it [the nursing shortage] has probably been getting worse over the last 12 to 18 months,” Olson said.

Olson said since the baby boomers will soon be retiring the shortage is likely to get much more serious.

According to the South Dakota Colleagues in Caring Project Fact Sheet from October 2001, 72 percent of nurse employers report some degree of a nursing shortage. The Fact Sheet also stated over 500 RN vacancies exist in the state.

Job opportunities in the nursing field in South Dakota are abundant. Olson said the graduation rate of securing a job in nursing is probably 150 to 200 percent.

“They [nursing seniors] all have more than one offer,” Olson said. “They have the lucky problem of deciding which one to take and which one fits them the best.”

The graduates have to choose whether they will stay in the state or head elsewhere.

“We have a very good staying-in-South-Dakota rate,” Olson said. Over the last five years there was about a 60 percent rate for classes of students staying in South Dakota.

Although many students choose to stay in the state, incentives such as large sign-on bonuses and better salaries have attracted students to other states.

“Every semester we seem to get more hospitals recruiting our students from farther away,” Olson said.

In some cases, it is unlikely the student will return to the state.

“From reading the literature and talking with graduates, we know once you are in a place and work there for a year or two, you feel comfortable, you know your colleagues you are working with, and you are less likely to change jobs,” Olson said.

“So if they can attract you there and get you comfortable, provide the support and environment, then you will probably stay there and work.”

However, Olson said the employers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City say that many of the South Dakota graduates who have left the state return in two years to work here.

“There are some advantages to that. They are two years experienced now. They are not brand new nurses anymore, and they bring that experience with them,” Olson said.

Although South Dakota may not have as large of sign-on bonuses or salaries as some other states, Olson said there are other incentives for nurses to work here.

“The hospitals in South Dakota have an excellent environment for RNs. They have caring supervisors that work with them. There is a good work ethic among the other people that they work with. People show up. They do their job. People know why they have a job and they get there and do there job,” Olson said.

The State Legislature is currently debating a bill to forgive nursing loans if students work in-state when they graduate. The bill, which has passed in the House and is now in the Senate, lists the main source of funding from nursing license renewals and a $10 dollar bed tax on hospitals, homes and assisted living centers.

Olson said the loan could be paid back by students by working so many hours in South Dakota. For every hour worked here, a certain dollar amount of the loan would essentially be forgiven.

A similar offer has influenced senior Laurie Fiegen’s plans.

“I’m going to work at Sioux Valley in Sioux Falls when I am done. Sioux Valley offered us a scholarship and they gave us money to go to school this year. Then in return we have to work there for a year.”

Fiegen said McKennan Hospital offered a similar scholarship, but not as many as Sioux Valley.

Other students plan to leave the state.

“I am probably going to work in Marshall, Minn. Most of the hospitals there have a nurses union which benefits the nurses,” senior Sara Jorgenson said.

Although Jorgenson has not applied for a job yet, she looks at the shortage of nurses as a benefit to graduates.

“I’m not worried [about finding a job]. I think the nursing shortage gives the nurses a good opportunity to get to look at the hospital and choose where they want to be,” Jorgenson said.

Other students want to leave the Midwest.

“I plan on going to the East Coast. There is higher pay and more opportunities to work in a bigger hospital,” senior Kristi Neilson said.

Neilson said she likes the atmosphere out there and would like a change in lifestyle.

“I think it will be fairly easy to find a job because of South Dakota’s good reputation for hard workers,” Neilson said.

Although new incentives to stay in South Dakota would attract some students, others will not stay.

“I would leave for sure. No matter how high they raised the pay. But it might make me come back in the way future,” Neilson said.

Sophomore Danae Bochman hopes to see improvements in South Dakota’s nursing wages.

“I plan to stay in South Dakota if the pay for nurses increases, but other states pay higher which makes it seem more promising to move out of the state,” Bochman said.

Junior Katie Huls wants to stay close to home.

“The reasons I would like to stay here is to be close to my family and raise my own family here some day,” Huls said.