WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - As many parts of the country face a nursing shortage, Wichita Falls is having little trouble filling those vacancies.
The Bureau of Labor statistics shows nursing jobs openings are expected to rise almost 20 percent in the next six years.
Desi Vickars, United Regional Hospital Liason, said the hospital is able to fill those positions because of Vernon College and Midwestern State University's nursing programs.
"I think geography plays a huge part," Vickars said. "If you don't have access to a university or some institution that puts graduates out, you may struggle."
One of the nurses the hospital recruited from Vernon College was Brandi Harris, 38, said who finished her clinical at the hospital.
"Just like everyone took me under their wing when I was a student," Harris said. "I know how annoying students can be and they never made feel that way."
A report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows more nurses like Harris are needed. It said in eight years there will be more than 430,000 nursing jobs open across the country compared to two years ago.
Another way the hospital recruits nurses early on is through a work to school program, which was created in 2004.
United Regional employees who meet certain criteria, like work at the hospital for at least a year and are enrolled in a nursing school, qualify for the program.
The hospital pays for the students nursing school tuition in exchange for them working for the hospital after graduation. 150 nurses have completed the program since its induction.
However, when needed, Vickars said the hospital does utilize travel nurses, especially during flu season.
MSU recently announced it received an HRSA grant that will help students gain primary care employment with rural and/or underserved populations.
United Regional, Community Healthcare Center, and Electra Hospital District are Academic-Clinic partners with MSU.
The Wichita Falls Career Education Center's nursing program is another tool for clinics and hospitals to use to retain nurses.
A US Census Bureau report shows by 2030, more than 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65. Those seniors will need care from nurses like Harris.