Quad Cities health professionals working to fill the need for nurses

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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - The need for nurses is growing throughout the nation according to the American Nurses Association. With older nurses retiring, younger nurses can't keep up with the demand.

Nursing students, like Taylor Holtkamp, are trying to help with that shortage.

"When I first started nursing school everyone told me you're not going to get a job in an ICU (intensive care unit) right off the bat," Holtkamp said.

The St. Ambrose University (SAU) student says the job offers prove differently, as she heads into her final two months of nursing school.

"This summer I interned at the job that I accepted, and outside of that I got two other job offers, both in ICU's," Holtkamp said.

She says landing what she calls her "dream job" before even graduating, wouldn't have been so easy without a nationwide nursing shortage.

"I'm pretty sure most my class is looking at ICU's and critical care and our opportunities are endless," she said.

Her professor, Kathy Andreson, who is also the department chair for the nursing department at SAU says the growing need for nurses comes a growing interest in the field.

"Our program, we've expanded our enrollment now to the capacity, we have two enrollment cycles, one in the fall and one in the spring and we have wait lists for students to get into those spots," Andresen said.

Andresen says SAU is doing all they can to get as many new nurses out into the workforce, with 55 students graduating from the department in May.

"There's always a need for nurses, I've been a nurse for many years and never been without a job, and that's one of the great opportunities for coming to nursing is you always have a job," Andresen said.

That's an opportunity Holtkamk says she's ready to be a part of.

"Now I'm going to be the one that others are looking to and I'm going to be taking care of patients so it's nerve-wracking but at the same time it's very exciting," Holtkamp said.

Andreson says they are starting to see people coming back to school to become nurses.

She says now SAU is working on launching an online program to expand their capacity and help fill the need.

Genesis Health Systems is focusing on recruiting nurses in the Quad Cities.

The Human Resources Coordinator at Genesis Health Systems, Nicole Lear says recruiting nurses to the Quad Cities has been their focus for several years. Because of that, she says they're starting to see progress.

From social media campaigns to career fairs, she says they're constantly looking for new nurses to work there. Lear says they're now going the distance; over 100 miles away to those job fairs.

Recently the hospital hosted a nursing forum with area colleges to try and recruit students.

She believes these vigorous hiring efforts are helping, with the number of openings now at about half of where it was three years ago.

"Across the health system we have approximately 100 open registered nurse positions either bedside or non-bedside care," Lear said. "Here specifically in Davenport, there would be approximately 50, it's the best that we've been in several years for our openings."

Lear says they also offer sign on bonuses for nurses and employee referrals.

Genesis is starting a brand new program with Davenport West High School next month. Students there will be able to earn their credentials as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) all before graduating high school.

Craig Cooper, the senior communications specialist at Genesis Health Systems says, "With a CNA, you can begin a nursing career in a hospital or nursing home facility. From CNA, you can work your way toward RN, BSN, MSN."

There will be a ribbon cutting on April 11.