Board gives nod on nurse education funding; County board agrees to $44K for 4 community health nurses

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mower County is going to spend about $44,000 on schooling to train four Mower County Community Health nurses for positions that have proven difficult to fill.

The county board voted unanimously during its regular Tuesday meeting to spend $11,000 per employee to fund the additional schooling. The four registered nurses will have three years to complete the necessary schooling to be certified as public health nurses, but they’ll have to continue working in their current positions and complete their coursework on their own time.

The nurses will have to apply and be enrolled in a school by Dec. 31, 2017, and they’ll have to apply for any possibly assistance to offset the county’s costs.

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County officials say the public health nurse positions are difficult to fill and frequently see no applicants for the positions.

However, some commissioners asked if they’ll be able to keep the workers. Commissioner Jerry Reinartz questioned if the county would train the employees and possibly lose them to other counties or private employers.

“It’s an investment,” Reinartz said. “You’d sure hate to lose them.”

He asked if they could agree to a contract or find some way to keep the employees, at least for a few years.

However, Human Resources Director Sherry Roth said the county can’t do that in this scenario, adding businesses will often work out similar deals only when they hire new employees as part of a job contract.

While there is a risk the employees would move to different jobs, Roth described it as something all counties face.

“It is somewhat of a cost of doing business,” Roth said.

Commissioner Mike Ankeny noted it’s a risk the county has to take as it just doesn’t have other qualified applicants available for the positions.

“In this situation and for the difficulty that we’re having, I think it’s a chance that we probably would need to take,” Ankeny said.

County Coordinator Craig Oscarson noted the county already pays similar amounts to train employees in other departments. Oscarson pointed to the county’s assessor roles and highway engineers and staff as some other positions where they pay similar amounts to train staff.

Ankeny noted the county has to train jailers for a hefty cost too, only to see many take positions as Mower County deputies or the Minnesota State Patrol, which has happened recently.

Ankeny and Commissioner Tim Gabrielson said they’ve had similar concerns about the employees leaving, but Ankeny described the four nurses in question as dedicated employees.