WORKFORCE: Filling tough jobsA primary draw for Sarah Bartels to the Sanford Aberdeen (SD) Medical center was the chance to be part of the Sanford team and to experience an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the director of the Women’s Center.
I have always admired Sanford’s genuine caring for their employees and their dedication to a flawless patient experience,” she says. “I feel that I will stay in Aberdeen due to the continued opportunity for growth and leadership within the Sanford system. Aberdeen is a larger South Dakota community, but yet still has that small town feel. It is a wonderful place to raise children and the community continues to grow.”
Filling the RN position in the region is considered one of the tougher tasks, according to recent research conducted by Praxis Strategy Group, located in Grand Forks and Fargo, N. D.
To determine some of the toughest jobs to fill in the region in the past year Praxis used data compiled by Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. (EMSI), a model that includes a combination of over 90 state and federal sources and includes estimates of independent contractors and others. Praxis looked at a number of metrics, including the number of openings in the region due to growth, retirements, and turnover; the number of openings compared to the total jobs in an occupation; and the regional concentration of a job here compared to the rest of the nation.
The occupations are separated into five groups: construction, extraction, transportation and material moving; business, finance and office; heath care; science, mathematics, engineering and computer; and manufacturing occupations.
The overall leader in total job openings across the region is heavy truck drivers, with 1,973 openings from 2010-2011. Over the past decade the five metropolitan areas - Bismarck, Grand Forks, Fargo, Sioux Falls and Rapid City - added 8,000 jobs in professional, technical, and scientific services, nearly 18,000 in health care, and 8,000 in finance, with each sector paying roughly $50,000 per year.
Sanford finding and keeping RNs
Bartels is one of those health care professionals that have been added to the workforce mix. And now she has the opportunity to help find some of those RNs to fill needs at the Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center. “We have been very happy with our applicants we have interviewed for our positions,” she says. “There are a wide variety of nurses interested in our positions ranging from experienced nurses to quality recent nursing grads as well.”
She adds that Sanford, as well as other health care systems, are not without challenges. “Nursing in general, always has a need,” she says.
Diane Berkland, chief nursing executive for the Medical Center in Sioux Falls, sees that firs hand. “It kind of depends on the local needs and demands,” she states. “Across the region there have been pockets where it is more difficult to recruit. A lot of it is the desire of where nurses are looking to locate.”
Berkland is considered Sanford’s voice for nursing across the organization. There are more than 6,500 RNs across North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. In the Sioux Falls Medical Center there are more than 1,200 RNs. The Sioux Falls Medical Center shows a 1 percent vacancy rate or less. Across the region, the vacancy rate is 3.6 percent.
Berkland notes that is it is not really hard to fill RN positions in Sioux Falls. “We have over 20 years of professionalizing nursing practice here at the Medical Center,” she says, adding Sanford has been designated as a MAGNET nursing organization by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. “MAGNET organizations are attractor organizations. We are bringing in the best and the brightest talent. We have worked hard to be that type of organization.”
Another successful recruiting technique has been the annual Sanford Day, where young men and women from the region walk into the facility and find out more about Sanford. “We work hard on it,” Berkland says. “Students love to come to Sanford Day.”
Sanford focuses on at least four items to keep RNs in the system. One is providing meaningful recognition. Second, the nursing staff is continuously invited to the table to provide input. Third, there are adequate numbers of qualified staff to help the newer staff. Finally, Sanford continues its investment in information technology.
“As the new folks come in they are interested in technology and simplifying their work,” Berkland states. “We have made a huge investment at the point of service (bed side.)”
Berkland concludes that nursing is really the backbone of health care. “It is essential to the culture and establishing the culture of the organization,” she states.
Finding truck drivers in the region
Rob Rebel, president of Knife River Central and Eastern North Dakota Division, doesn’t hesitate in saying that finding truck drivers is a difficult task. “Most everything you read about the oil boom in western North Dakota involves trucks and truck traffic,” he states. “There are thousands of trucks operating there. We’ve lost drivers to that area and there is only so much capacity of qualified truck drivers within the state. There used to be a pool to draw from. Because of the demand the pool is pretty close to empty.”
Rebel adds that truck drivers are an “absolutely necessary part” of what Knife River does.
Rebel is in charge of aggregate, ready mix, concrete construction and trucking divisions for both eastern and central North Dakota. He started in the industry in 1988 working 11 years for Fisher Sand and Gravel Company in Dickinson, N. D. In 2000, he worked for Pioneer Construction and then in 2003 joined Knife River when Pioneer was acquired.
Knife River has operations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Texas and Iowa.
Rebel’s divisions employ about 75 truck drivers between central and eastern North Dakota. Currently, in central North Dakota, Rebel is looking for 10 redi-mix truck drivers and 10 aggregate truck drivers.
“It is not unusual for some turnover,” he states. “But because of the lure of higher hours and pay, we are seeing a higher turnover.”
Knife River has been very active and has engaged the Human Resources Department on the corporate level in finding truck drivers. This includes job fairs, as well as actively recruiting in the region. “Most recently we sent out notifications to all employees to find out if they are interested in becoming a certified truck driver,” Rebel says. “If they go out and get the appropriate permits, we will give them time with our drivers, train them and provide the vehicle for formal CDL training to get the license.”
Rebel adds the company is trying to do everything it can to entice employees to stay. This includes such things as competitive benefits and providing a personal family environment.
“They are working for a good, safe company that cares about them,” Rebel states.
As for what needs to be done to find truck drivers, Rebel notes “if there is a magic bullet out there, I don’t know if we’ve found it yet.”
The one advantage Rebel believes Knife River has is in being a well established company. “We’re a national company where there are always opportunities to move within the company in the 13 states we work in.” PB Alan Van Ormer - firstname.lastname@example.orgMore from around the web