USD Nursing Assistant Professor and Associate Chair Anne Kleinhesselink and Chair Anne Pithan are managing the $1,050,000 million grant, which will be disbursed in increments of $350,000 per year for the next three years.

The South Dakota Department of Labor data shows a clear need for growing the nursing workforce, especially registered nurses. Shortages are expected to grow through 2030, and HRSA projects that by that time, South Dakota will be one of seven states in the U.S. where the demand for registered nurses is greater than the supply.

“Communities across the state are without the resources necessary to support the health care needs of underserved populations in South Dakota and as administrators of this grant, we will meet this need,” explained Pithan. “USD is fully equipped to meet the workforce challenges in the state of South Dakota because we understand those challenges and have the capacity to develop innovative education to strengthen undergraduate nursing student skills to practice in acute care settings. This grant will advance health equity, increase students’ awareness of acute care in underserved communities and prepare them to provide care in these communities.”

With the HRSA grant, USD Nursing will create training models to strengthen skills and work to increase the diversity of the nursing workforce, recruiting students from varied backgrounds, including students from tribal lands and rural areas, who will then go on to practice in South Dakota’s underserved communities spanning the entire state.

“This HRSA grant speaks directly to the mission of USD Nursing to improve the well-being of people, particularly those in rural and underserved communities and to benefit the health care and workforce needs of South Dakota,” explained Kleinhesselink. “The grant will provide students an exciting opportunity to experience health care in rural communities and the impact they can make as a nurse in underserved communities.”

The training developed by USD Nursing will provide students with intensive, real-world experiences and perspective of the nursing role in rural clinical settings, including working with experienced professionals in a variety of departments. The students will gain a better understanding of the complexity of rural nursing to include the unique knowledge and skills necessary for practice; exposure which will also improve recruitment and retention of nurses to underserved areas.

By the end of the grant term, which is September 2025, USD nursing will:

  1. Increase number of USD nursing graduates practicing in acute care settings in underserved communities by 5% annually.
  2. Increase the confidence of current and future nurses by developing their leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills.
  3. Increase the number of USD nursing students from underserved communities by 5%.
  4. Increase the number of Native American nursing students at USD by 5%.
  5. Train 24 nursing students annually in acute care settings in underserved communities.

Students participating in the clinical experience at a rural health facility will partner with clinical experts to disseminate what they have learned to the current and future workforce by offering ECHO series to educate on incorporating health equity, culturally sensitive and team based care into practice.

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