$5 million grant to boost USD Nursing Distance program

VERMILLION, S.D. -- With a three-year, $5 million grant awarded by the United States Department of Labor, The University of South Dakota Department of Nursing will be able to develop more registered nurses and address a critical need for nursing educators with graduate degrees.

The $5 million grant is part of more than $225 million in health care and high growth training grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The USD Department of Nursing is one of only eight institutions – out of 55 – to receive a maximum grant of $5 million. This funding will allow for the recruitment of unemployed veterans and military personnel, who are interested in entry level health care positions in hospitals, and registered nurse education as well as support future nurse educators to achieve the required graduate degree.

“We have recently formed a partnership with Compass Point Labor Management, who has an employer partnership with the military allowing access to personnel in any branch of the service,” explained Kathy Manning, the USD Distance Nursing Director. She pointed out that active duty veterans experience unemployment rates at least 2 percent higher than the general public.

“This grant will allow us to work with Compass Point to assist unemployed veterans and transitioning military personnel who are interested in entry level health care positions in long term care centers and hospitals,” she added.

Additionally, the grant provides opportunities for these newly placed and incumbent health care workers to pursue nursing careers while continuing employment with a primary health care partner, such as The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and additional partners Tuff Memorial Home of Hills, Minn., Southwest Heath Care Services of Bowman, N.D., and Presbyterian Healthcare Services of Albuquerque, N.M.

Employees of these primary health care partners receive education and support from the USD Nursing-Distance program, which currently offers an Associate of Science in Nursing degree. All students in the distance program are employees of the Society or USD Nursing’s other health care partners. Since USD Nursing began its partnership with the Good Samaritan Society in 2003, providing the Distance Nursing program to Society employees, more than 100 Society employees from nine states have graduated from the USD Nursing-Distance program. The Society is the nation’s largest not-for-profit provider of long-term care and services.

“The Good Samaritan Society has made a significant investment in this program since 2003 and we have gained real value by being able to grow our own nurses,” said Sonia Bury, director of Learning Services for the Society. “This new partnership with Compass Point will not only provide us access to more frontline caregivers, and to the nurses they will become, it is a way for each of our organizations to make a real difference for a lot of people.”

Funding from the grant will allow the USD Nursing program to purchase a mobile simulation unit to bring state-of-the-art clinical and skills laboratory experiences to nursing students within a nine state region. Additional funds will be used to promote the graduate degrees required of nursing faculty, particularly faculty who seek Ph.D. nursing degrees. The faculty financial support includes dollars for tuition, fees and work release time.

“While this grant is certainly a great benefit to our veterans and military personnel who want a career in health care related fields,” Manning stated, “it also addresses a critical need to employ and educate long-term health care and acute care hospital caregivers to meet the increasing complexity of health care and our nation’s workforce needs in practice as well as nursing education.”

The USD Nursing program, part of The U’s School of Health Sciences, is approved to serve students through The U’s Distance program in nine states: Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Idaho.

For more information, please visit www.usd.edu/health-sciences/nursing/distance-program.cfm.