Grant targets state nursing shortages

With more career options open, fewer women become nurses than in past decades.

Tricia Michel

A $226,000 federal grant could help the University address statewide nursing shortages, University officials said.

The grant, from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, will facilitate hands-on experience for first-year nurses at five Twin Cities-area hospitals.

Officials hope the experience, in addition to regular work and a newly developed curriculum, will help lower current high turnover rates for nurses, said Mary Pattock, communications director for the School of Nursing. She said nurses under age 24 currently have a high turnover rate because new nurses can be easily discouraged by the job’s long hours and stressful work environment.

The first-year trial program begins in January and aims to help first-year nurses bridge the gap between school and work, Pattock said.

A state-wide nursing shortage has plagued the University for more than three years, but officials had been expecting the shortage for decades, Pattock said.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, women were limited to their professional choices,” Pattock said. “Now we have many choices and fewer people going into nursing.”

Although the University has seen an increase in nursing enrollment, it has turned many students away because of limited space and faculty. In 2002, more than 600 students applied to the School of Nursing; 125 were accepted.

Pattock said with more than 55 percent of nurses in the state graduating from the University, the School of Nursing is the largest program in the state.

She said the University is also the only program in Minnesota that teaches nursing research.

The Health Resources and Service Administration recommended two additional years of funding for the program, following its first-year trial period.

Because the program will be the first one of its kind in Minnesota, it will serve as a model for future programs in the state, visiting professor Ann Jones said. She said the University hopes the program will be effective and easy to replicate so it can be used statewide.