September 25, 2017 Voices Of Montana, _Featured

Healthcare Workforce in Dire Need in Rural Montana

Montana needs healthcare workers, good paying jobs, get educated in your hometown

Healthcare Workforce in Dire Need in Rural Montana

Grant works to Create Access to Rural Education and Employment

Montana needs healthcare workers, good paying jobs, get educated in your hometown

Billings – To address the growing healthcare workforce shortage, a Department of Labor grant, HealthCARE Montana (HCMT), is helping Montanans prepare to fill all kinds of healthcare jobs. HCMT Project Director Kaye Norris explains, “In the last year alone, 2,150 healthcare jobs were added across the state of Montana. Over the last 5 years, roughly 7,300 healthcare jobs have been added. And the projection is that over the next ten years, every year annually there will be about 1,300 new jobs.”

Montana has one of the oldest populations in the country and with many healthcare professionals at the end of their career, the state is desperate for new workers. The rural nature of Montana also contributes to the workforce shortage since many smaller communities have less population to draw from and many health care workers there are asked to perform tasks that go above and below their training levels.

With over 15 college partners including 4 tribal institutions and 200 industry partners, HCMT works to combat the healthcare workforce shortage in three ways: Student Support, Employer Engagement, and Curriculum Development.

Student Support

Career Coaches like Pat Reuss work with individuals who are at all stages of the career development process. A coach will help students find the right health care training program for them and even identify programs that are on-line or can be completed in part through distance learning. The career coaches can also help students find financial support, utilize existing college credits, and find jobs.

Employer Engagement

Mary Helgeson is a Workforce Coordinator who works out of the Area Health Education Center in Eastern Montana. She works primarily with critical access hospitals and long term care facilities who are desperate for help in their facilities.

HCMT also helps facilities grow their own employees through apprenticeship programs. Bo Bruinsma is an apprentice specialist in Billings. Bo says one of the largest needs in rural areas is for LPN’s (Licensed Practical Nurses), but there are as many as 14 different occupations which are accepting apprentices. Click Here to see a list of apprenticeships that have been created thus far.

Curriculum Development

Significantly, HCMT and its partners have revised nursing curricula at campuses across the state.  Practical Nursing and Associate of Science in Nursing programs are now streamlined, transformed to meet industry needs and address workforce shortages.  These revised nursing curricula will result in the following benefits:

  • 20-25% reduction in time and up to ~$8,300 reduction in cost for each of the PN and ASN programs
  • Entry into workforce four to six months earlier to potentially increase earnings of ~$15,500 for LPN and ~$22,500 for RN
  • 20% increase in number of ASN graduates over time
  • ~300% increase in PN graduates who will potentially remain as LPNs in the workforce for more than one year

If you are interested in exploring what a career in healthcare could do for you and your community, please visit:

To listen to the Voices of Montana show that spoke with HCMT, please visit our podcast page.

Healthcare workforce shortage, careers

(Left to Right) Kaye Norris, Pat Reuss, Bo Bruinsma and Mary Helgeson on Voices of Montana.