By Caroline Cummings

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nurses the state hired to assist hospitals amid a staffing shortage began arriving to Minnesota on Wednesday, a welcome boost as patient volumes overwhelm the health care system.

Gov. Tim Walz last week announced $40 million in spending from a pot of federal relief money to contract with a national staffing agency to bring on more workers. There will be 220 total nurses coming to hospitals across the state.

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Starting this week, 100 nurses will take on shifts at 23 hospitals. They will work 60-hour weeks, or one-and-a-half times a normal workload. An additional 100 nurses are promised next week.

CentraCare is getting five nurses this week at three hospitals in Monticello, Willmar and Melrose and expects more to come to St. Cloud Hospital next week. Its director of emergency preparedness, Rachel Mockros, underscored the challenges that hospitals in the group have faced since the pandemic’s onset: shortages of staff and supplies.

“We’re all fighting for the same resources and they just don’t exist,” said Mockros. “We don’t have many more staff to bring on board. We have really stretched the field to the max across the entire United States.”

But the few nurses that are relieving staff at CentraCare are beneficial, she said. Providers there calculated that three extra nurses around the clock would allow the hospitals to take four to six more patients. The impact extends further than the immediate hospital getting the aid to the greater system of hospitals across the state, she added.

“That will alleviate challenges that we’re having across the health system either holding on to patients or moving them to other health care facilities,” she said.

This latest effort comes as the Omicron variant’s spread grips the state and hospitals are grappling with fewer staff and patients needing care for COVID and other conditions. Some health care workers are also out sick with the coronavirus.

More than 1,500 in the hospital have COVID on top of thousands more with other needs, according to data tracked by the Minnesota Department of Health.

The governor originally said last week the state aimed to hire more than 300 workers, but a spokeswoman later clarified that the amount of staff coming on board—220 nurses working longer shifts—is the equivalent in terms of workload.

Carol Koeppel-Olsen, vice president of patient care services and the chief nursing officer at Abbott Northwestern, said Allina hospitals that qualify will get 40 nurses total. She echoed Mockros that the extra boost in support is appreciated.

“We can use them at the elbow of our existing nurses to have more beds open to take care of our community,” she said.

Here’s a list of all the hospitals getting 105 nurses this week:

Winona Health

Lake Region Healthcare

Alomere Health

Sanford Bemidji Medical Center

Carris Health – Willmar

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Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center

Sanford Worthington Medical Center

Mayo Clinic Health System – Mankato

Essentia Health – St Mary’s Medical Center

CentraCare Monticello

M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center – Wyoming

M Health Fairview Northland Medical Center – Princeton

M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital

Allina Health Clinic – Buffalo

Allina Health – Cambridge Medical Center

CentraCare Melrose

Mercy Hospital

Abbott Northwestern Hospital

Regions Hospital

North Memorial Hospital


M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center

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United Hospital

Caroline Cummings