SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota has been experiencing a nursing shortage for the past several years, and it only got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Avera Health and SDSU are working to change that.

The nursing shortage has impacted rural communities the most. But a $1 million grant is working to change that.

“This grant really helps us focus on health disparity, health, equity, health literacy, some of those things that in a rural facility are completely different,” said Karna Pfeffer, Nurse and Project Director.

The three-year grant will be used to expand programs and workforce experiences in the SDSU Nursing Program.

“It will really provide some great opportunities for students to learn not just about rural health care experiences, but also gain experience in rural health care environments,” said Mary Anne Krogh, dean of nursing at SDSU.

Krogh says South Dakota is predicted to have over 1,000 open positions for RNs in the next few years. The goal is to fill these needed positions with students.

“The better that we can equip students to work and thrive in those environments, the better the whole state of South Dakota will be,” Krogh said.

Pfeffer has been a nurse for 15 years, she says she hopes this grant encourages others to stay and work in South Dakota.

“There’s so many great people that live in our communities and having those access to health care, just makes them stronger,” Pfeffer said.

Training will take place at Avera hospitals in Dell Rapids, De Smet, Gregory and Flandreau.