University Letter

UND's faculty and staff newsletter

LEADS: Addressing North Dakota’s workforce needs

Editor’s note: The following letter, written by Deans Maridee Shogren and Joshua Wynne, precedes a special edition of UND Today focused on the “Service” core value of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan. Head over to UND Today to read the full selection of stories reflecting the Service objective of the plan.

By Maridee Shogren and Joshua Wynne

The most pressing service issue for the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines (CNPD) is that of healthcare workforce preparation and subsequent provision for the state and the region. Under the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, our two healthcare-focused units are striving under the Service pillar to augment the region’s healthcare workforce, with a special focus on rural and tribal regions.

To do so, our strategic plans focus on four components:

  • Encouraging more pre-professional students to enter a pathway leading to a healthcare career;
    • Recruiting those students to enroll at UND;
    • Providing these students with support while they are UND students, and then
    • Facilitating the retention of those students for practice within the state/region after they graduate.

The UND SMHS already has robust summer programs run through the Center for Rural Health to excite middle school students about a health career. The Scrubs Academy brings students to UND’s Grand Forks campus for a four-day program during the summer, while Scrubs Day Camps are held throughout rural North Dakota. To augment these activities, the SMHS, under the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, intends to add a full-time career advisor staff position under the Office of Alumni and Community Relations to connect with middle and high school as well as college students throughout the state and the region to serve as an information hub about health careers.

The next phase in further developing the state’s healthcare workforce is to convince students who become interested in a healthcare career to matriculate at UND. Here the strategic goal is to maximize the students’ perception of the value of a UND education by emphasizing its excellence as well as its (relative) low cost. To maximize value, the key is to recruit and retain the best teachers. The strategic goal associated with this is to increase the number of endowed positions we can offer by increasing philanthropic support.

And to keep cost low, we hope to further grow our student scholarship support by further increasing donor contributions.

The CNPD has also been increasing recruitment efforts across our region to introduce students early on to careers in nutrition & dietetics, social work and nursing. Because more and more students are deciding their career paths by high school, we are working to attract the highest achieving students through our direct admission pathway in nursing and an early assurance pathway in nutrition & dietetics that will be available in the near future.

Once healthcare students matriculate at UND, they are supported through their entire academic journey. For example, Brannon Hall is in its second year with a devoted Living Learning Community (LLC) for pre-nursing students. Students living in the LLC are supported academically through visits from the Nursing Office of Student Services and are welcome to participate in the Nursing Student Association as they prepare for a professional career. CNPD professional advisors meet regularly with our students to support them through their respective rigorous academic programs.

The Recruitment & Retention of American Indians into Nursing (RAIN) program serves students who are matriculating at UND from Tribal communities across the United States. RAIN provides academic support and assistance to Indigenous students seeking degrees in nursing, nutrition & dietetics, and social work. RAIN also promotes an accepting, supportive environment with an open-door policy. RAIN promotes cultural identity by hosting an honor ceremony and traditional meal for our graduates.

Seventy-nine percent of American Indian registered nurses in North Dakota are RAIN graduates.

There is a demand in North Dakota for graduates from all programs in the SMHS and the CNPD. To help keep graduating physicians in state for practice, the goal is to further increase the number of post-M.D. residency slots we offer for graduating doctors. The main barrier to increasing the number of residency slots is the lack of sufficient funding, so our strategic plan is to solicit further support from the various healthcare provider organizations located within the state.

We are collaborating with clinical partners and our alumni to increase rural health experiences that welcome our graduates to many North Dakota communities. The SMHS and the CNPD are also offering and launching new programs to serve the state’s needs for behavioral health providers, acute care practitioners, and providers who care for our growing elderly population.

Our graduates use innovation and creativity to solve the challenges facing our healthcare industry today.

By so addressing these four components through UND LEADS – pathway programs; matriculation at UND; student support; and retention in-state after graduation – we believe that we can further positively impact the state’s healthcare workforce situation in the not-too-distant future.