HAVRE, Mont. - According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the U.S. is projected to experience a shortage of registered nurses as baby boomers age and the need for health care grows.
For one program in Northern Montana, the work they are doing is catching the eye of one of the nation’s most prestigious clinics.
Montana State University-Northern (MSUN) said their students are more marketable as they graduate due to the certification they receive during their coursework in the associate of science in nursing (ASN) program.
"Just as in healthcare, our care is always very patient-centered in this program, our instruction is very student-centered," Wendy Tilleman, assistant professor of nursing for the college of health sciences at MSUN said.
A typical day for students consists of classes, hands-on experience with the local hospital and working in a simulation lab.
"So, the students here at Havre are getting the full hands-on and classroom experience from, really, almost the beginning the first day of classes here to the last day of classes," Tilleman said.
That hands-on experience comes with a one of a kind sim-lab. When the pandemic hit, it forced Northern to change their thought process on teaching these students.
When they could no longer get into a hospital for hands-on training, the sim-lab essentially brought the hospital to them.
Within the last year, Northern added three more mannequins for their students to work on. In addition to the man and woman they already had, they added a pregnant woman, a baby and a child.
"We are able to very realistic clinical simulations for our students," Tilleman said.
Desiree Norden is a level two ASN student and is originally from Havre. She did an undergraduate in Minnesota before returning to Montana and knows how renowned the Mayo Clinic is.
"The graduates here are ready to either work in a small hospital like Havre or a big hospital like Mayo," Norden said.
Being able to work in rural areas or big hospitals are setting students up for success.
"Some choose to stay local, that's what they want to do. They know they want to work local; they want to stay here with their family. Their families own ranches and farms, and this is where they want to be. But there are some students that want 'I want to travel; I want to go somewhere else.' And so, our program gives them that opportunity," Jaime Duke, the interim dean for the college of health sciences at MSUN said.
"For the students from Havre to move out to Minnesota and just hit the ground running out there I think says a lot about the readiness of the students who leave this program," Norden said.
They're leaving a program going into a world that no nursing student has ever been a part of. The unknowns of a pandemic and the impact these particular students from Havre will have could be life-changing.
"They are all front line workers, especially with COVID and these graduates that are going to graduate this spring and those ones who graduated last spring went into this new reality of COVID. So, all the nurses out there are special; it doesn't matter where they come from, everyone is special. They chose to go help," Duke said.
The door was opened by a 2019 graduate who was hired by the Mayo Clinic. They were so impressed with their skills they reached out to Northern.
Professors said that nursing is a patient-centered art and they help instill that in their students, helping them in the long run.