SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– It’s YOU week at Avera, celebrating the 20,500 employees at all of their facilities in honor of several celebratory days including National Hospital Week, National Nurses Week and National Skilled Nursing Care week, all held throughout the month of May.

In tonight’s Your Money Matters, why people in all of these professions are being celebrated even more as workforce shortages continue.

“We still continue to have openings and critical openings with our footprint,” Kimberly Enebo, the Vice President of Talent and Rewards at Avera Health said.

Avera Health hires more than a thousand employees every year, but there are still far too many openings.

“Probably five years ago it started getting very tough in the labor market, even before the pandemic,” Enebo said. “The highest, biggest need is nurses. Tell your children, go to school, become a nurse. That’s our biggest vacancy.”

Those nurses are critical to providing care for patients; it’s why during the Pandemic Avera had to bring in travel nurses to help fill the gaps in care. It’s an expense the hospital has been working to cut down on all year.

“We’ve reduced the external agency cost by 62% from a year ago,” Enebo said.

A big part of that was the Human Resource team’s innovative idea to create Avera’s own internal traveling program.

“Many of our employees were leaving us to go to travel because it was lucrative for them. We said let’s start our own travel program,” Enebo said. “So they’re employees of Avera but they’re traveling where the needs are at.”

The travel program is also helping provide access to more rural health care across KELOLAND.

“Rural health is very important to us as well, to be able to keep patients there as well,” Enebo said. 

But as Avera adds more healthcare facilities to keep up with the population growth in South Dakota, more workers are needed to continue serving the community.

“Respiratory therapists, lab techs, also our food service workers, it’s the housekeepers, it’s really a city at Avera, need all kinds of people to meet the needs of our patients,” Enebo said.

Summer internships are now getting underway in health care across KELOLAND, but Avera HR says there aren’t enough local students to fill all of the open positions. It’s why they also added nursing recruiters focused on moving more new nursing graduates to KELOLAND.