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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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U seeks diverse nursing students amid shortage

Influenced by a nationwide nursing shortage – minority nurses in particular – the University’s Nursing School is sponsoring an off-campus information session Jan. 30 to attract a group of applicants that reflect Minnesota’s growing diversity.

Session coordinator Loreé Terry said that because nursing involves close, one-on-one interaction with people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, an understanding of different cultures is an important trait in nurses. That understanding can come from training in a diverse nursing education program, Terry said.

Because nurses often go back to serve the communities they came from, more diversity among nurse trainees would benefit underserved minority communities, Terry said.

With that goal in mind, the information session will be held at the Washburn branch of the Minneapolis Public Library at 5244 Lyndale Ave. S. A similar community event held last fall in St. Paul was very successful, Terry said.

“One of the answers to working on health disparities is having a work force that mirrors the community,” Terry said.

Joanne Disch, a University nursing professor, said approximately 12 percent of nurses nationwide are minorities. The number of minority nurses is similar if not slightly lower in Minnesota.

A serious nursing shortage

However, while the lack of diversity within nursing is a problem, the more serious problem is the shortage of nurses in general. It’s an issue of increasing demand and decreasing supply.

Disch said there are more than 3,200 vacant nursing positions in the state. And, for several reasons, it’s only going to get worse.

“In about six years, it’s anticipated that if things just move along the way they are now, we’ll have more than 7,000 vacancies,” Disch said.

Jan Rabbers, a Minnesota Nursing Association spokeswoman, said at least one third of the aging nurse population is up for retirement within the next seven years.

Also, harsh conditions in the profession lead to burnout and injuries – two causes contributing to high turnover among nurses.

At the same time, the demand for nurses is growing.

Advances in medical technology mean that more serious health problems can be treated. But the lengthier hospital stays associated with those treatments require a greater amount of skilled nursing care, Rabbers said.

Another factor in increasing demand is the aging baby boomer population, she said.

Disch said the lack of nurses means that elective surgeries must occasionally be delayed. State law, in response to the shortage, also allows nurses to temporarily freeze admissions to hospital wards.

Area hospitals have begun to offer large signing bonuses for nurses and have resorted to recruiting from other states, countries and even from other local hospitals, she said.

Despite the current problems, Disch said nursing is a “wonderful career” because of its high starting salary and the ability of nurses to choose among a wide variety of jobs and patient populations.

Melissa Highman, a University nursing student set to graduate in June, is just beginning to explore her options within the field.

“No matter what population you want to work with, in what setting – whether it be in a hospital or a clinic, in schools or homes, or even churches or anything like that – you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything,” Highman said.

She said she has the flexibility of not looking for a job until March or April because the field is so open.

Highman said all nurses – especially those just entering the field – should expect long hours and weekend and holiday shifts, but they have a lot of flexibility in choosing settings and hospitals.

From what she has heard from friends who are recent graduates of the University’s nursing program, Highman said, “As far as finding jobs, there’s no problem whatsoever.”

Dylan Thomas welcomes comments at [email protected]

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