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DMF grant focuses on paramedics to become nurses

By   Erin Wood

Lake Region State College has received a grant in the amount of $75,000 from Dakota Medical Foundation to support a paramedic to nurse program.

With this grant, Lake Region State College will develop a bridge curriculum for certified/licensed paramedics to be able to obtain their Associate Degree registered nursing license in the state of North Dakota.

Workforce shortages, while a problem for the entire health care system, are likely to be most severe for rural regions and medically needy population groups such as the elderly. North Dakota has shortages for both registered nurses and paramedics especially in rural areas. 

“The benefit of a paramedic obtaining an RN in North Dakota is significant to the rural communities,” said Karen Clementich, coordinator of the LRSC Nursing Program, which is part of the Dakota Nursing Program.  

The college is hoping to start classes this summer pending approval by the North Dakota Board of Nursing.

Being a paramedic can be stressful and challenging, but also rewarding for the very same reasons. However, with a nursing license there are more opportunities to be promoted in the field of health care. Because of this, it is a great idea to consider a Paramedic to RN bridge program to improve one’s career prospects while gaining new knowledge and skill sets in the field of nursing, Clementich said.

“These programs are tailored specifically for paramedics, and therefore offer a fast-track path to a nursing career.  RN/paramedic licensed and certified individuals often work in emergency rooms and intensive care units as they are knowledgeable in highly acute and complex patient care management.”

Paramedic to RN bridge programs generally take around two years for completion although it varies depending upon the general education courses the paramedic has completed and how the program is designed to give prior learning and experience credit.  This program would utilize medical facility partners currently in place for clinical experience.  

The Dakota Nursing Program is a partnership of community colleges educating future nurses.  Lake Region State College, Bismarck State College, Dakota College at Bottineau and Williston State College along with multiple distance sites are partners in the Dakota Nursing Program.

As a partner in the Dakota Nursing Program, LRSC provides access into career ladder opportunities for place bound certified nurse assistants (CNA) to become licensed practical nurses (LPN) and LPNs to become Registered Nurses (RN).  The program utilizes Interactive Video Networks and other technologies for courses and local faculty for the lab and clinical courses.  

"Each step in the career ladder enables students to attain their nursing career goal while staying working in medically underserved communities,” said Julie Traynor, director of the Dakota Nursing Program.

Lake Region State College is currently approved by the N.D. Board of Nursing to educate associate degree nurses at its campus in Devils Lake and at the Mayville State University distance site.  Additionally, an RN to BSN articulation agreement is in place with Minot State University and in progress at Mayville State University so Dakota Nursing Program (associate degree) students have a smooth transition into the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.

“Experience proves there are many capable and caring individuals in rural communities where, given the educational opportunity, make great healthcare providers.  Often they climb the career ladder from certified nurse assistants or qualified service providers to practical nurse to licensed associate registered nurse often in the same rural healthcare organization.  Supporting the ‘grow your own’ strategy is often seen as a rural recruitment/retention strategy in rural healthcare,” Traynor said.

LRSC’s successful nursing program is impacting the healthcare shortage for nursing across the state, as the vast majority of graduates find jobs in North Dakota.  

“From 2006-2011, more than 88 percent of LRSC nursing graduates took jobs in North Dakota, often in rural communities where nurse shortages are especially acute,” Clementich said.

The Dakota Nursing Program already has a bridge in place for current LPNs who desire to continue their education by entering the AD program as advance standing students in the fall semester. The paramedics are expected to do bridge coursework in the summer and then enter the fall semester along with the internal students and advance standing LPNs. 
Over the past 10 years, LRSC Dakota Nursing Program has delivered courses in Devils Lake, Grafton, Langdon (twice), Northwood (three times), Cooperstown, Carrington, Grand Forks, and Mayville.  The Bridge Program proposed by the Lake Region State College aims to add additional paramedics and registered nurses to the clinical field through the development and implementation of an innovative curriculum that allow professionals to be dually licensed as registered nurses and paramedics, Traynor said.  

“The double licensure allows for an individual to work as either an RN or paramedic, or both, depending on the situation.”
Dakota Medical Foundation leads initiatives to measurably improve health and access to healthcare, helps build exceptional nonprofit organizations that produce superior results, and actively seeks and invests in breaking through ideas to vastly improve health for people of the region. 

Since 1996, DMF has invested $68 million to operate initiatives, provide funding and help improve the results of more than 400 organizations in the region. DMF and Impact Foundation jointly host Giving Hearts Day and the website that has processed more than $8 million for charities since 2008. For more information, see