Health care systems desperate to fill nursing vacancies; new program at University of St. Thomas aims to help

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One of the metro’s biggest health care systems says pressure is mounting surrounding its staffing shortages.

To address it, North Memorial Health Hospital held a job fair on Wednesday. The company’s spokesperson called it a creative way to get new hires.

“We are seeing more openings than normal,” Lisa Gleason, North Memorial Health Hospital’s interim talent acquisition manager, said outside Wednesday’s job fair.

Applicants that attended were able to sit down with hiring managers. If interviews went well, there was a chance for people to get a sign-on bonus. Needing help in the emergency department, intensive care unit and more, there was a big focus on hiring registered nurses and nursing assistants.

“We’ve seen burnout in other areas in healthcare as well,” Gleason added. “So we’re looking for a variety of roles within the hospital.”

The Robbinsdale-based health care system is not alone. According to NSI Nursing Solutions Inc., this is an issue across the country. It surveyed more than 3,000 hospitals nationwide and found a 2.8% increase in the registered nurse (RN) turnover rate in 2020, reaching 18.7%. NSI Nursing Solutions Inc. also found that there is a 9.9% vacancy rate for RNs.

Over the last few years, to address this demand, the University of St. Thomas has been creating its first-ever nursing program. The founding dean for the Morrison Family College of Health, Dr. MayKao Hang, says there’s already interest before the program’s first class.

“It’s like a crisis,” Hang said. “Our clinical partners wish that we were up already and could have had nurses graduating from the program."

Hang said the new program will likely get final approval in November and then students can start applying to be part of the nursing program’s inaugural classes in the Fall of 2022.

She says classes can’t start soon enough.

“We have a nursing shortage. We did already have a nursing shortage before the pandemic, and now we have a really bad one,” Hang said.

Career opportunities at North Memorial Health Hospital can be found on the company’s website.