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Health care

Lutheran, RRCC offer apprentice program to students

CNAs get hands-on learning experience in top hospital


As an industry, health care provides many, many career pathways for job seekers to consider.

But despite the multitude of options, Elerie Archer, a registered nurse and manager of talent development at SCL Health, said most people boil it all down to a much smaller number.

“In health care, most people think there are only two occupations — nurses and doctors,” she said. “At our hospitals, like Lutheran Medical Center, we’re seeing a lot of turnover in our certified nursing assistant (CNA) positions because people so often use it as a pathway to a nursing career.”

To help fill some of the vacant CNA positions, Lutheran and SCL registered an apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor to recruit and train future employees. And now, the hospital is offering that program through workforce innovation and an academic partnership with Red Rocks Community College.

“Red Rocks has been sending nursing and nursing aide students to Lutheran medical center for their clinical rotations for years,” said Jennifer Bresnahan, director of nursing programs at the college. “Due to the overwhelming need for health care workers, especially nurses in Colorado, we looked at a way to increase interest and education among employees and students. We found that by introducing students to Lutheran Medical Center during class and clinical, we are able to find them employment, as well as to continue their educational goals.”

The CNA apprenticeship is a competency based, one-year program with three levels to complete — with an increase in wages as each level is completed.

Other hospitals are also relying on educational institutions to help fill vacant roles on their staff. Dan Wawrzyn, communications manager with St. Anthony North Health Campus, said a partnership with Front Range Community College has provided many CNAs for the hospital.

“We have a great working relationship with Red Rocks presently with their paramedic program,” added Wendy Forbes, director of communications at St. Anthony Hospital, in an email interview. “However, we are always glad to engage in other creative opportunities with our community partners to establish talent pipelines for us now or in the future.”

At Arapahoe Community College, Valerie Carter, department chair of the Nurse Aide program, said she is seeing across the board staffing difficulties for all health care facilities, and offer many hands-on learning opportunities to their students.

“Our program includes three days of hospital clinicals, in addition to three days of long term care, and two days of hospice to increase student experience in facilities,” Carter wrote in an email interview. “Because of the number of clinical hours students in the nurse aide program complete, they are often able to apply and be hired directly into hospital nurse aide positions.”

Job preparedness is one of the biggest take-aways for students in the Red Rocks Community College program, which started its first group in July, Archer explained.

“Students will be able to navigate the process at their own pace, and come out with more skills,” she said. “Hopefully, they’ll come out with a clearly defined career pathway.”

The program is part of the America’s Promise Job-Driven Grants to expand the region’s middle-skilled workforce specific to occupations in IT, Advanced Manufacturing and Healthcare, according to information provided by Lutheran. With the knowledge and experience they gain in the program, students will have several health care careers open to them, including health administration, health information management, and nursing.

“Our nursing students are well known for their excellence in the medical community and this partnership is a great way to showcase that. Not only do our students have access to a fantastic employer, Lutheran has been outstanding in finding out student employment,” said Bresnahan. “I hope students learn that nursing is a profession where we will always have a need and that it is more than just a job but truly a calling.”


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