RN Career Paths in South Dakota: Becoming an RN
South Dakota registered nurses have many options. They can work for rural clinics or for large facilities that enjoy national recognition. They can specialize or take on roles that involve doing a little bit of many things!
South Dakota Professional Nursing Roles
The South Dakota Center for Nursing Workforce (SD CNW) compiles information about the state’s RN workforce (https://doh.sd.gov/boards/nursing/RandP.aspx). All RNs who renewed licenses during the 2015 to 2016 cycle were required to complete a survey; results were included in the report South Dakota Nursing Workforce Supply and Employment Characteristics: 2017.
The hospital is the primary work setting for nearly half of the state’s registered nurses (48.9%). Ambulatory care is the next most common setting with 13.4%; this is followed by nursing home, extended care, and assisted living facilities and then home health, public health, and community health.
School and academic settings constituted the primary workplace for 3.4% of the state’s RNs; insurance and benefits, 2.9%.Other less common settings include policy and regulation and occupational health. A substantial portion of the state’s RNs selected ‘other’ — one can find professional nurses many places.
A January 2018 job search turns up many varied postings:
- Registered Nurse Case Manager (Home Care)
- Nurse I/II (State Government)
- Assistant Director of Nursing
- Registered Nurse – Pain Management
- Registered Nurse-Call Center
- Employee Health Manager
About one in five held secondary employment at the time of the survey; again, hospitals constituted the single largest category.
When asked to select which percentage represented the amount of time they spent in direct patient care (none, 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%), the large subset (46.9%) selected 100%. 16.8%, though, reported no time.
Becoming an RN and Achieving Career Goals
Prospective RNs complete approved programs (RN programs in South Dakota) and sit for the NCLEX-RN upon graduation.
A student’s choice of degree will have a bearing on employment options. South Dakota has provided a more nuanced picture than the generalization that hospital RNs tend to be bachelor’s level (or BSN).
More than 65% of those who reported the hospital as their work setting did indeed hold at least a BSN. RNs with education at this level dominated some hospital-based practice areas. Nearly 82% of those in pediatrics held at least a BSN. Among hospital-based respondents who reported public health practice areas, nearly 78% did. In oncology, the rate was 72.2%.
In only one type of South Dakota setting (extended care/ nursing home/ assisted living) was the proportion of RNs with less than a BSN greater than 50%. Here only 38.6% held degrees at the BSN level. Relatively lower levels of nursing education were more common among those who reported their area of practice as geriatrics/ gerontology/ adult than those who reported other practice areas such as rehabilitation.
In the area of home health, the two categories were nearly equal, with just over 50% reporting education at the BSN level or higher. One practice area, palliative care, saw a significantly higher proportion.
In community health, correctional health, and public health settings, the BSN-and-higher population was somewhere between 50% and 60%. Ambulatory care was at 63%, occupational health, 68.7%.
It’s not all about formal education, however. Voluntary third party certifications can also facilitate advancement. These are specialty-specific.
Premier South Dakota Facilities
South Dakota boasts three magnet hospitals: Regional Health Rapid City Hospital, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center, and Sanford USD Medical Center; the latter two are located in Sioux City.
Avera McKennan, South Dakota’s first magnet facility, is the subject of an American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) case study (http://www.nursecredentialing.org/Magnet/FindaMagnetFacility). The ANCC notes that as part of the magnet journey the organization worked to decrease rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections (a nursing-sensitive quality indicator).
The more populous areas of South Dakota tend to have more nurses per-capita. At the time of survey, populous Region 2, comprised of just Lincoln and Minnehaha counties, accounted for 27.7% of the state’s population but an even higher 38.8% of its RNs. Region 6, comprised of 14 counties in the Central and Southern part of the state, accounted for 7.1% of the overall population but just 4.4% of the nurses.
Rural and critical access hospitals fulfill an important role for remote communities. Avera McKennan describes the rural nursing roles as expert generalist and notes the rewards that come from being such an integral part of the community (https://sanfordhealth-nursing.jobs/rural-nursing/new-jobs/).
Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) are very small but also very important. Five South Dakota CAHs made the top 100 list in 2017: Avera Flandreau Hospital, Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital and Clinic in Miller, Avera Weskota Memorial Medical Center in Wessington Springs, Mobridge Regional Hospital, and Sanford Hospital Webster.
Home health is crucial for rural populations, as well. For some nurses, it’s a calling. The Faith Independent reported in January of 2018 that a registered nurse had purchased the company she had been working for (http://www.pioneer-review.com/faith-independent/west-wind-health-services-under-new-ownership).The woman, a native of the community, told the Independent that the enterprise brought together two things she loved: nursing and small town people. The company, West Wind Health Services, has quite a history. During its first year of operation, in 1996, the owner made trips that involved snow mobile and horseback.
South Dakota registered nurses made an average hourly wage of $26.89 in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics equates this to an annual figure of $55,920. This assumes 40 hour weeks. The bulk of South Dakota’s RNs work 36 to 40 hours a week.
South Dakota registered nursing has been projected to see 12.1% occupational growth over the course of the 2014 to 2024 decade.
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