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Avera nursing workforce receives $2.5M in grant money

Jackie Hendry

A pair of grants means a $2.5 million investment in Avera’s nursing workforce.

The two grants, Project NEXT and the Nurse Education, Practice, Quality, and Retention Training Program, come courtesy of the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HERSA.

Karna Pfeffer is director of education at Avera St. Mary’s in Pierre. She said telehealth and education are on the table.

“Now post-pandemic how are we going to keep that moving? So, HERSA has awarded $1.5 million to help with that," Pfeffer said. "Then the next grant is the rural training track grant – looking at how we can educate bachelor’s degree nurses at more rural care facilities.”

Pfeffer said these resources are crucial for nurses both urban and rural.

“Looking at some of the pieces a nurse does in a day and helping to support those bedside nurses with a virtual nursing option," Pfeffer said. "So hopefully it will give nurses an option to work shifts virtually, but also working shifts on the floor as well.”

Pfeffer predicts telehealth will only grow in importance post-pandemic.

“I think if we continue doing what we’re doing we’re going to do the nursing profession a disservice," Pfeffer said. "This younger population, they grew up with technology – they’re very, very comfortable with it. So, I think as the newer generation comes into the workforce, they’re gonna want this. They’re gonna need it.”

A rural training network will also be established at Avera facilities in Aberdeen, Pierre, Scotland, Platt, and Madison.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture