Thursday morning at Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC) marked the start of a new journey for 18 of Vermont’s healthcare workers. CCV student Emily Davidson was there, dressed in purple scrubs. She’s been working in pediatrics as a licensed nursing assistant (LNA). “I have wanted to go back to nursing school for a very long time, since I got my LNA about five years ago,” she said. “But I’m a full-time employee, and a mother of two boys, and a fiancé, and a homeowner—so it wasn’t possible.” As of yesterday, that’s changing.

Through a new program offered in collaboration with CCV and Vermont Tech, Central Vermont Medical Center will train 18 of its incumbent LNAs to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). It means that Emily will be able to work and go to school at the same time. Yesterday morning, her friend Rachel Cleveland sat beside her. “I have a similar story to Emily’s,” she said. “I’m a single mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old, and [I’m a] landlord, so there’s no way I could go to school and work an 8-5 job.” Now she can: according to CVMC’s vice president of human resources Robert Patterson, the program is designed to reduce barriers to higher education, namely time and money, and also to accommodate a work/life balance for students. “To be able to see my son is the biggest thing,” said Cleveland. “I’ll still be able to have a relationship with him.”

Patterson says a statewide nursing shortage was the impetus for the program. “You can look at some of the Vermont pipeline data: we need to graduate about 600 RNs per year just to meet needs, and we’re currently graduating around 260 or so per year in Vermont,” he said. “So the math doesn’t work out. So these are the programs that [will] really be helpful for us to meet those needs and get there.”

Patterson was excited to welcome the employee-students to the program at yesterday’s kick-off. “It’s been a huge lift…I think this has been some of the most fulfilling work that I’ve done at CVMC in the last 20 years that I’ve worked here. We’re putting resources into the people we need to put resources into. I’m so excited that you’re on this voyage to become nurses. Knowing that you’re part of our community, you’re a part of our organization, we’re going to invest in you, you’re going to stay in this community and take care of our community and our patients, is incredibly important to me and to this organization.” Some students began pre-requisite coursework at CCV this summer. After three semesters at CCV, they will apply to Vermont Tech’s LPN program for fall 2020. Just 11 months later, they’ll begin their new roles as LPNs.

CCV president Joyce Judy congratulated the 18 students in the room—60% of whom, she noted, will be the first in their family to earn a college degree. “You have been willing to step forward and invest in yourself and increase your skills,” she said. “And the hospital has invested in you. They know you’re good employees, and you’re loyal employees, and now they’re investing in you to become even better employees.”

Judy called the program a win-win-win: participants will be able to advance their careers; the Hospital will grow their own workforce; and for CCV and Vermont Tech, she said, “this is our mission: How do we help Vermonters get the education they need to be able to realize their dreams?”

She acknowledged the power of partnerships to achieve common goals, noting that in addition to commitments from CVMC, Vermont Tech, and CCV, the LNA-LPN pathway is made possible by federal and state support. “This is about bringing all of our resources together, and doing something better together than any of us could do alone.”

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