Washington State Community College was recently awarded the Regional Job Training grant from the Buckeye Hills Regional Council. The institution received $245,000 for the advancement of a newly established nursing pathway designed to address the nursing shortage facing the country.
Nationwide, and specifically here in the MOV, healthcare facilities are feeling the pinch from the nursing shortage. As the demand continues to exceed the supply of skilled workers, WSCC developed a measure to help fill the gap with its new pathway called Education and Advancement to Registered Nurse (EARN). EARN is an in-demand job advancement path, that is designed to meet the immediate needs of local healthcare providers by helping students progress through WSCC’s practical nursing program and then onto its associate degree nursing program while working in the healthcare field. This pathway is specifically designed to attract students who are prepared to work as they learn.
Funds from the Regional Job Training Grant will be used for additional faculty in the nursing program. WSCC Dean of Health and Sciences Dr. Heather Kincaid said the college anticipates they will need at least two additional faculty members to help offset the increased enrollment in the EARN pathway. Kincaid explained that one of the new faculty will act as a program-specific success coach who can provide guidance and support as students navigate life, work, and education. This nursing faculty advisor will also work closely with participating businesses to ensure that the program is meeting the needs related to in-demand jobs.
Currently, the College has filled all 24 slots allocated for the first EARN cohort, which will begin in August. And Kincaid said that the demand for this pathway is so great, they’ve already started receiving applications for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“People are responding to this opportunity because they recognize its value. EARN follows a specially designed path that leads to opportunity for job advancement,” explained Kincaid. “We’ve devised it so that the skills and knowledge these students are learning in the classroom and clinical rotations will be immediately applied at work.
“As the student progresses through the pathway and gains skills and knowledge, he or she may be eligible to earn industry credentials resulting in potential wage increases,” she continued. EARN is beneficial to the healthcare partners as well because “they are guaranteed skilled employees who are invested in growing their careers.”
The College is working with area healthcare facilities to establish partnerships where students can be employed while working. These same facilities also serve as a pool for potential students, said Kincaid. “Many healthcare facilities have incentive programs to encourage employees to advance their education. With our solid reputation for producing highly skilled nurses, organizations are confident in recommending us to their employees.”
While EARN students can have experience in the healthcare field, the pathway can easily accommodate students who have never worked in the industry. Those students can enroll in nursing classes and begin working in an entry-level position like a Patient Care Technician. Following the successful completion of the first semester, the student will be eligible to take the nurse aide competency test and become identified as a state tested nursing assistant (STNA). Contingent on an employer’s requirements, this certification may make the student eligible for a potential pay increase. The next semester, following the completion of the practical nursing program, the student will take the national licensing exam to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and will receive another bump in pay. This process will continue until the student has graduated and becomes a Registered Nurse.
“Effectively, EARN provides the student with opportunities for career advancement while they are working toward their degree. The credentials they receive are the basis for the incremental boosts in their income, which, over the course of the program has the potential to increase by more than 150%,” confirmed Kincaid. “With the EARN program, we are building on the success we already have here at Washington State. We are simply expanding our reach to provide a new opportunity for students who want to work in healthcare while they pursue their degree.”
Nursing programs at WSCC have been very successful, as demonstrated by licensure and job placement rates. In fact, both the practical and associate degree nursing programs had a 100-percent pass rate on the national licensing exams. Earlier this year both programs were ranked among the top programs in Ohio by two nationally recognized nursing websites. Furthermore, both programs boast 100-percent job placement.
For more than 45 years, Washington State Community College has provided residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley the opportunity to realize dreams, to enhance skills, and to broaden understanding. Whether you are a recent high school graduate or an adult student looking to move your life in a new direction, Washington State has the classes to suit your needs. For more information about Washington State Community College, visit www.wscc.edu or call 740.374.8716.