Dubuque County-owned nursing facility requesting funds to fill nurse positions

A sign in front of Sunnycrest Manor shows it's hiring. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- The national nursing shortage is hitting a Dubuque nursing home and addressing it might cost taxpayers.

Sunnycrest Manor is a nursing home that Dubuque County owns. Officials there say they've had a tough time filling open nurse positions for the last year, with more expected to open this year.

"We currently are down five nursing positions right now here at the facility," said Director of Nursing Tammy Freiburger. "We are also looking at, you know a couple of our baby boomers that are looking towards the retirement age, probably within the next year, so we have about three of them on staff.”

With a total of eight positions that need to be filled, Freiburger said they hope to create an education fund to help their employees go back to school.

We’ve found it to be successful to be helping our own staff here to make it through nursing school or to promote them from within, so they have career advancement within our community," Freiburger said. "We are looking towards an educational fund that we are able to provide some money towards paying for their tuition to going to school.”

She said this will benefit Sunnycrest because they will be able to retain employees that residents already know and have relationships with.

Amber Gulyash, a licensed practical nurse (LPN), said she hopes to soon go back to school to become a registered nurse (RN). She said that will give her more responsibility at Sunnycrest.

As an RN, Gulyash said, "I can administer IV, antibiotics if needed, or take somebody’s blood if the lab can’t come in and do it."

She hopes the education fund will help her get her degree and stay at Sunnycrest.

"Maybe I can go farther, do more and help Sunnycrest out in the long run," she said.

Dubuque County Supervisor Jay Wickham said he believes this is a good solution. Not only does Sunnycrest needs to fill the open positions to keep up with state requirements, but Wickham said it will remove burden and stress from other staff members who have been picking up the slack. He said it will also decrease overtime expenses.

Freiburger believes the taxpayer money will be well spent.

"I think it’s a direct investment in our community, in our personal community, to offer that support, not to mention just the job opportunities and advancement opportunities and keeping our nurses locally here in Iowa," she said.

The Board of Supervisors will review and approve the county's 2020 fiscal year budget in March.