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120 nurses coming to North Dakota to help with pandemic response

120 nurses coming to North Dakota to help with pandemic response


North Dakota is getting 60 military nurses and an equal number of civilian nurses to aid in the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Doug Burgum announced Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency granted the state’s request for federal assistance, paving the way for the 60 U.S. Air Force nurses who will support hospitals in the state's major cities, including Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, Burgum said. Sanford Bismarck President Michael LeBeau earlier this week told the Tribune that hospital had a need for 80 more traveling nurses as it opens a new 20-bed COVID-19 unit.

The Department of Health also is contracting with a temporary staffing agency to provide an additional 60 nursing staff for hospitals and nursing homes. They'll begin arriving as early as this weekend.

The Air Force nurses are coming from military bases in Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Maryland. They'll deploy Saturday and are expected to start work at the Bismarck, Minot, Fargo and Grand Forks hospitals next week, joining 167 nurses who are part of the state health department's COVID Response Team. They'll be in North Dakota for at least a month, and up to six months if needed.

“These dedicated Air Force personnel will help relieve the stress on North Dakota’s more than 20,000 nurses who continue to work tirelessly to provide exceptional care for patients under incredibly challenging conditions,” Burgum said in a statement. 

Air Force Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson said “Our actions demonstrate our steadfast commitment to help communities in need as part of the whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic in support of FEMA.”

The military effort will cost $2.2 million, according to governor's spokesman Mike Nowatzki. The state's share of that is $550,000, which will be paid for through federal CARES Act coronavirus relief aid dollars the state has received.

CARES Act money also is funding the civilian nurses, whose role will be evaluated on a month-to-month basis. Those nurses will be paid on an hourly basis -- the staffing agency will get $156 per hour for a surge nurse and $176 per hour for an intensive care unit nurse, according to the state health department.

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or

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