North Dakota’s Nursing Shortage Gets Shot in the Arm with Mary’s New Three-Credit College Course for High Schoolers

Nursing Students

First-of-its-kind course in North Dakota starts January 18, 2023, and partners with Bismarck Public School’s Career Academy and Technical Center

BISMARCK, ND — High School seniors in Bismarck can now take a new Introduction to Nursing course from the University of Mary through a partnership with the Bismarck Public School’s Career Academy and Technical Center and earn three dual high school and college credits. Interested seniors can enroll in this pilot course at the Career Academy — that starts this upcoming spring semester — and if they maintain an overall 3.5 grade point average (GPA) or a 24 ACT, they are guaranteed early assurance into the nation’s top-rated nursing program (according to the 2021 national benchmarking service, Mountain Measurement) at the University of Mary. 

“For high school seniors, this course creates an early pathway into the nursing field that has reached the critical shortage stage in North Dakota and across the United States,” stated Dr. Billie Madler, associate dean of nursing at University of Mary’s Saint Gianna School of Health Sciences, and Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (2016). “This aligns with our university’s mission as we hold a responsibility to serve the needs of this region, and beyond, by helping curb this shortage. This course will engage the high school student in the broad scope of nursing, give them a taste of what it’s like to be a nurse, and potentially begin their journey towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree that will eventually help provide a workforce pipeline that the nursing industry so desperately needs.”

Madler is not aware of any other college or university in North Dakota offering this type of course-partnership for high school seniors. Partly because, the Bismarck Career Academy is uniquely set up with an academically qualified instructor teaching the course — Jessica Mehlhoff, who has a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.

“I am excited to be a part of this collaboration bringing nursing education to the students and future nurses of Bismarck Public Schools,” said Mehlhoff. “I feel this is a unique and amazing opportunity for students to jump-start their education in nursing through the partnership between the Bismarck Public Schools and the University of Mary. The Introduction to Nursing course provides a professional foundation and exposes students to nursing education while in high school. By taking this dual credit course, students will save time and money on their college education while gaining valuable knowledge of the nursing profession.” 

As the name implies, this course introduces students to the nursing profession by looking at current and historical influences; community nursing; patient-centeredness and the essence of caring; incorporation of cultural considerations in the delivery of care; ethics and values of the profession; legal implications in nursing practice, and principles to support effective and therapeutic communication in the face of a commonly technology-infused environment. Students will also be provided hands-on application with patient simulators on University of Mary’s campus.

This course and the spring semester for the Career Academy begins Wednesday, January 18. As of right now, there are no prerequisites other than being a high school senior. Madler says, it is important to reduce obstacles for motivated students and provide them the greatest opportunity to leverage their time for focus on courses that will support their overall goals to pursue a particular field of interest. Science and math courses are vital in the high school preparation of students aspiring to be nurses. This course will enhance that preparation and be a springboard for future study.

Metaphorically speaking, said Madler, “This course gives students a seedling for nursing, that we want to fertilize and water. In the end, we are making the nursing field more accessible to high school students in our community. A whole country needs care, and these students are going to help provide it.”

Various aid packages are available for nursing students attending the University of Mary, including generous scholarship opportunities from CHI St. Alexius and Sanford Health, so students can focus on becoming a nurse with less worry about the financial aspect of paying for their degree.

“Beyond the fact that there is a nursing shortage, BPS knows the interest in nursing and the health sciences in general is deeper than just exploratory,” says Dale Hoerauf, director of Career and Technical Education at the Career Academy. “Over 100 students from area public and private schools — including Saint Mary’s and Shiloh — become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) every year by passing our CNA course. That course has become a great launching pad for this new Introduction to Nursing course. With that said, depending on the demand for this course, we could see the list of dual-credit health sciences courses grow in the future that would provide even more support for not only the nursing field, but other health care professions.” 

High school seniors interested in taking this course should contact Hoerauf ( or Mehlhoff (, and those who want more information about the University of Mary’s nursing program can email Madler (