Skip to main content

Sanford Health's $3M Nursing Grant Will Help Rural Healthcare 'For Generations to Come'

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   May 12, 2023

Sanford's grant is part of the U.S. Labor Department's $78M investment to strengthen and diversify 25 nursing programs nationwide.

A grant of nearly $3 million to Sanford Health from the U.S. Department of Labor will help create a more sustainable nursing workforce in the rural upper Midwest for generations to come, says Erica DeBoer, RN, MA, CNL, CCRN-K, Sanford’s chief nursing officer.

Sanford’s Nursing Expansion Grant is one of 25 totaling more than $78 million that the labor department awarded this week to nursing programs in 17 states to address critical staffing challenges and to strengthen and diversify the workforce.

“We are honored that the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded Sanford Health nearly $3 million in funding to help strengthen our nursing workforce in the rural upper Midwest, where nursing shortages are more acute,” DeBoer says. “As the largest rural health system in the country, we are well positioned to carry out a nursing workforce expansion project that will benefit rural nurses and the patients we have the privilege of serving.”

The grant officially begins June 1 and will allow Sanford to improve first-year retention for new nurses and increase the number of nurses in the RN career pathway in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa by expanding paid internship programs, according to DeBoer.

“New nurses face the highest work-related stress during the first three months of practice and approximately 30% to 70% of new nurses either quit their jobs or transfer to another unit within one year of practice,” she says. “These internship experiences will expand the clinical skills and knowledge of nursing students to better prepare them to join the nursing workforce.”

The grant will allow Sanford Health to fund faculty positions to jumpstart an accelerated BSN second degree program in partnership with North Dakota State University, with an emphasis on improving recruitment and experience in rural areas.

It also will increase the quality of nurse orientation and the quantity of preceptors in all care settings by updating Sanford’s advanced preceptor curriculum, to include individualized tools, resources, and improved access for long-term care, acute care, and ambulatory nurses serving in rural areas, DeBoer says.

“By improving recruitment, retention and engagement in RN training programs and career pathways, offering financial support, performing continuous quality improvements to programs, and evaluating strategies for efficacy,” she says, “we will be able to reduce barriers in rural areas and create a more sustainable nursing workforce for generations to come.”

Investing in nurses

The grant program is a response to the profession’s significant challenges, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an average of 203,200 openings for registered nurses each year through 2031.

As nurses are well aware, and research shows, adequate staffing is important to outcomes for nurses and patients and is essential to maintaining and improving the nation’s healthcare system.

For those reasons, the labor department’s Employment and Training Administration awarded the grants to 25 public-private partnerships in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The grants will support innovative partnerships and strategies that expand and diversify the pipeline of qualified nursing professionals, specifically by increasing the number of nursing instructors and educators, and by creating opportunities for frontline healthcare professionals to advance on a career pathway, according to the labor department.

They also will help grant recipients improve diversity in the healthcare workforce and address the health equity gap in underserved communities by embedding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility strategies into their programs. By doing so, the programs will ensure people from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities have pathways to good jobs and careers in nursing.

“The grants … recognize the burden so many nurses have shouldered for too long by supporting programs to expand and diversify the workforce,” said Brent Parton, acting assistant secretary for employment and training. “These investments will also help to ensure the nation’s well-being and continue to strengthen our care economy using proven practices and strategies.”

“We will be able to reduce barriers in rural areas and create a more sustainable nursing workforce for generations to come.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


The Nursing Expansion Grant Program awarded 25 grants totaling more than $78 million.

The purpose of the grants is to address critical staffing challenges and strengthen and diversify the workforce.

Sanford Health’s nearly $3 million grant will help improve recruitment and nursing experience in the upper Midwest’s rural areas.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.