Avera Health will use new funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to start a number of programs involving training in telehealth, telemetry monitoring, virtual nursing, and cultural awareness in order to help the nursing and rural public healthcare workforce. Avera Health is an integrated healthcare system that provides services to South Dakota and the adjacent regions of Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota. It has 37 hospitals, more than 200 basic and specialized care clinics, and 40 senior living facilities. The programs are supported by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a component of two awards amounting to approximately $2.6 million.
A three-year Rural Public Health Workforce Training Network Program will be supported by the first funding, Project NEXT, a $1.5 million grant from HRSA. By offering cross-trained skills in telehealth, health information technology, and skill opportunities like telemetry monitoring and virtual nursing, Project NEXT will equip the rural public health workforce. The program will allow other staff members to perform certain nursing services, such as documentation, in order to free up time to allow nurses to spend more time with patients at their bedsides. To achieve this, a rural training network will be set up in priority-state South Dakota. Healthcare institutions such as Avera St. Luke’s Hospital, Aberdeen S.D, Avera St. Mary’s Hospital, Northeast South Dakota Area Health Education Center, and Dakota State University will be part of the network.
The second HRSA grant offers $1 million over three years as part of the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality and Retention (NEPQR) Registered Nurse Training Program (RNTP). The “PREPARE-RNs: Partnering to Address the Critical Nursing Shortage in South Dakota” initiative will train BSNs and RNs in cultural awareness, socioeconomic determinants of health, health equity, and health literacy to prepare them for employment in rural acute-care critical access facilities. With the help of the funding, Avera and its primary partner, South Dakota State University, will be able to train, recruit, and keep nursing personnel by eliminating misconceptions and impediments related to working in a rural acute-care setting. Healthcare facilities participating in the program include Avera Dells Area Health Center, Avera De Smet Memorial Hospital, Avera Flandreau Hospital, and Avera Weskota Memorial Medical Center.
“The nursing shortage we’re seeing is nothing short of historic. Responding to this crisis requires time, innovation and collaboration across several sectors,” said Karna Pfeffer, project director for the PREPARE-RNs grant. “We are grateful for the recognition of this issue at the federal level, and the grant funding to address these issues in creative ways.”