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Rasmussen moves to meet nursing demands

Shanda Bischof, left, and Jen Rode are first-year students in the LPN nursing program at Rasmussen College in Moorhead, where a new RN program is being started. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Dave Wallis

As the home of multiple assisted-living facilities, two major health systems and a new multi-million-dollar hospital under construction, the Fargo-Moorhead area is feeling the squeeze of a national nursing shortage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of registered nurses needed in North Dakota and Minnesota will grow by 22 percent by 2020, and there will be 2,500 job openings each year in the two states.

While those in the health industry are looking for qualified nurses to fill vacancies, the key to keeping up with demand is increasing education for nurses, said Dr. Joan Rich, director of nursing at Rasmussen College in St. Paul.

That is why the Moorhead campus of Rasmussen College will offer a Professional Nursing Associate’s Degree program starting in January. The program is for students pursuing a career as a registered nurse.

The college also launched the Mobility Bridge Transfer option, which allows licensed practical nurses to transfer credits into an associate’s degree in nursing.

While Rasmussen has long offered the LPN degree, student interest led to this advanced degree, said Maggie Aslakson, associate director of admissions in Moorhead.

“We really wanted to meet that demand in the community,” she said.

But the demand for nursing is being felt nationwide.

A 2012 study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one in five jobs nationwide relates to the health care field, and of those, 75 percent are in nursing.

Rich said current estimates predict a shortage of 700,000 nurses by 2020.

Much of the shortage is due to an aging workforce. As baby boomers reach retirement age, fewer people are entering the field, Rich said. Population studies show that 10,000 adults will turn 65 each day until 2030.

In North Dakota and Minnesota, the average nurse’s age is 46.

“If you look at projected retirement age of 60, then 20 percent of LPN and RN nurses (here) will be retired soon,” Rich said.

The aging population means nurses are needed not only in traditional hospitals and clinic settings, but also in elderly-care facilities.

Grant Richardson, senior executive for development and community relations at Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo, said the need for nurses is high in elderly-care environments, especially in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area.

“In terms of both licensed LPNs, RNs and (certified nursing assistants), this is a tight market,” he said. “There are a lot of health care facilities in this area. We’re all kind of competing for the same resources.”

That market will tighten further when Bethany opens its 38-bed skilled nursing expansion at Bethany on 42nd Street in January.

Richardson said 60 new positions were added to staff the facility, most of which are nurses.

While Bethany serves as a training facility for local institutions, last year the retirement community began its own certified nursing assistant licensing program.

Bethany also offers scholarship programs to staff members who wish to further their education in nursing.

Rasmussen partners with health care facilities within a 90-mile radius of Fargo-Moorhead for hands-on student learning, said Allyson Hopperstad, dean of nursing at Rasmussen College in Moorhead.

The benefit of needing nurses in the area means job opportunities for graduates are abundant. Openings will grow again around 2017 when Sanford Health’s new 1 million-square-foot facility opens.

Students interested in applying are encouraged to visit

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Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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