We can begin to solve America’s nursing shortage in very short order with innovative educational and apprenticeship approaches that let young healthcare workers move up the skill ladder more quickly.
Hospitals across the country are desperately struggling to find nurses. Traditional nursing programs take years of schooling with costs running to more than $100,000. Nursing schools meanwhile compete desperately for available faculty and for clinical settings where students can practice.
But the aging population and changing healthcare delivery models continue to drive demand for nurses higher.
There is a creative way to address these problems:
- Create new apprenticeship-style programs for nursing assistants and medical assistants with an education partner.
- Recruit a new type of healthcare employee – often a person who is seeking to change careers to a more dynamic and higher paying field.
- Invest in that new type of employee from day one, supporting them in their acquisition of micro-credentials that lead to higher nursing certifications and compensation.
Hospitals can utilize this approach to begin to augment the role of the nurse, and start to recruit recent high school graduates or those from other industries looking for a new career. Providing apprenticeship-style employment gives someone without a career – or looking for a career – the chance to earn while they learn to be nursing or medical assistants.
A micro-credential/apprenticeship program can be a game changer for health-care organizations and employees alike. Health-care organizations, by putting non-traditional candidates on the payroll, are getting help faster and investing in the future.
Nursing and medical assistants can take pressure off nurses by performing basic tasks, freeing the nurses to do more complex patient care. And for the new assistants, micro-credentials can be a pathway to a career in nursing or another health-care specialty.
Other skilled trades are already doing this. The construction industry offers paid training and certification programs based on employers’ needs. Tech companies are de-emphasizing college degrees and looking for hands-on experience and demonstrable competencies.
There’s no reason hospitals can’t take a similar approach.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) course can be completed in four to eight weeks, and a medical assistant can be certified in six to 12 months. Meanwhile, candidates are working in hospitals and other health-care settings, and getting paid.
For instance, a laid-off tech worker can go directly to work, rather than paying up to $4,000 for a nursing assistant certification course, spending at least three months learning and only then applying for jobs. In this new model, they are employed almost immediately.
A CNA candidate, in the Chicago-area market, may earn $17 to $20 an hour during training. When they finish the program, they may be eligible for an increase to $21 to $23 an hour, the typical rate for a CNA.
Hospitals have traditionally recruited nursing and medical assistants as they would a nurse, seeking those who already have credentials and can be productive right away. For most, the concept of an internship or apprenticeship just doesn’t exist.
To make a micro-credential or apprenticeship approach work, health-care organizations need to rethink the way they look at talent acquisition. That may seem like a major cultural shift, but it need not be.
There are many places to find new talent. High schools, workforce development organizations, local chambers of commerce and state legislatures can all provide ideas and paths for targeting a diverse pool of candidates.
There are people across the U.S. looking for work — if someone will just invest in them. And hospitals, reeling from staff shortages, stand to benefit greatly by reinventing their approach to talent acquisition and development.
Providing education and a career ladder to non-traditional nursing candidates is a great way for healthcare organizations to invest in a loyal workforce — and see a return on that investment remarkably quickly.
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