Nursing students across South Dakota are learning about the opportunities and challenges ahead in their career field. Augustana College is hosting hundreds of students for a nursing convention.
Augustana nursing students practice giving injections on a mannequin with the hopes of one day being able to treat real patients.
"I know nurses have a huge impact on the patient and it's really important that you are competent and know what you are doing," Augustana Junior Nicole Elsasser said.
Elsasser says her grandma inspired her career choice.
"Just the way she talked about it, it was always something I was passionate about," Elsasser said.
But much has changed since Elsasser's grandma was a nurse. It's currently one of the fastest-growing professions.
"Between 2012 and 2022 they expect the nursing ranks to grow by 19 percent," Augustana Nursing Department Chair Janet Philipp said.
Philipp says one of the reasons why is the Affordable Care Act. It gives millions more people access to healthcare. It will also have more nurses working in locations outside of a clinic or hospital.
"Both the Affordable Care Act and even before that the insurance companies do not want people to be in the hospital as long as they have been, so there's a role for nurses in care coordination," Philipp said.
Another reason for the shortage is around 50 percent of the nursing workforce is nearing retirement.
"Especially because people hung on during the recession, now they're saying it's time to retire," Philipp said.
In fact, because of the demand for nurses, Augustana launched an accelerated nursing program this week. It's for students who already have a college degree and have completed the prerequisites.
"Once they have those and they begin the nursing courses, they are finished with their nursing degree in 16 months," Philipp said.
Because of the nursing shortage, Elsasser is not worried about finding a job after college. She's also excited to start the career of her dreams.
"I really am looking forward to the whole relationship with the patient," Elsasser said.
The student nursing convention is Friday and Saturday at the Holiday Inn in downtown Sioux Falls