University of Jamestown awarded $2.5M grant to address nursing shortage

The demand for registered nurses is expected to increase.

Kimberly Ash.jpg
Kimberly Ash, chair of the University of Jamestown Nursing Department, speaks with nursing students in the simulation lab at the university. UJ uses the lab to prepare students for real-world tasks and emergencies.
Contributed / University of Jamestown

JAMESTOWN — The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a grant of almost $2.5 million to the University of Jamestown, which will be used to help address North Dakota’s ongoing nursing shortage.

The university was one of 25 organizations across the U.S. — and the only organization in North Dakota — selected to receive a share of $78 million in grant funds as part of the Department of Labor’s Nursing Expansion Grant Program. The grant was designed to help diversify the pipeline of nursing professionals able to fill jobs and improve the nation’s health care system.

“We are extremely honored to be a recipient of this grant from the Department of Labor,” said President Polly Peterson. “This support will allow us to expand access to nursing education — in a time when we need it most — to all learners by creating an innovative, workforce-centric model that synthesizes learning and earning within an incredibly supportive environment designed to promote persistence.”

North Dakota’s Labor Market Information Center projects a 13.9% increase in demand for registered nurses from 2020 to 2030. According to UJ’s Nursing Department Chair
Kimberly Ash, the University of Jamestown is addressing this nursing shortage by strategically partnering with Sanford Health to deliver nursing education in a way that will meet the needs of a diverse population of learners.

Using the Department of Labor grant funds, UJ will launch an innovative learning center in Fargo for nurses with collaborative programming partnering with Sanford Health. The new learning center will house a percentage of the university’s nursing programs, which are available online and in person.


“There’s no question about it—we need more quality nurses,” Ash said. “We are experiencing a nursing shortage and will continue to see one due to multiple factors including, but not limited to, the aging baby boomer population and their increased need for care, nurse burnout which was exacerbated by the pandemic, and more nurses entering retirement age.”

Ash said the program is a worker-focused alternative to traditional nursing education in a university setting. It will immerse students in hospitals from day one while incentivizing new nurses to remain in North Dakota by offering employment and tuition repayment, characteristics Ash said are key to inspiring a new generation of students and career changers.

“Work-based learning and post-program employment are essential components built into the learning center model,” Ash said. “Through this novel center, students are given the opportunity to learn systems, people, culture, and practices within the health care industry, resulting in high-quality, practice-ready nurses.”

Peterson said the innovative learning center model is distinctive for three main reasons.

“First, we’ve created a pathway for second-career learners by offering an accelerated direct-entry model into our nursing programs to those with bachelor’s degrees from different fields," she said. "Second, we’ve prioritized low-income adults and adults with dependents by offering 10 hours of weekly paid work while assisting them with the academic support necessary to ensure their completion. Finally, our program’s tracks equip students to begin working while stacking their credentials as they continue their education.”

Once students graduate from the program, Sanford Health plans to offer employment and tuition reimbursement options.

“As a long-time clinical partner to the university, Sanford has benefitted tremendously from the quality nurses the university graduates,” said Theresa Larson, Sanford vice president of nursing and clinic services. “Sanford is proud to partner with the University of Jamestown on this highly innovated new program that will add over 200 nurses to our staff throughout the three-
year grant period.”

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