MEADOWBROOK HEALTHCARE has come up with a creative way to address staffing needs while improving the company’s culture and employee retention by “growing their own” Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) through a training program with CV-TEC.
The CNA-to-LPN Ladder Program allows Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who are currently employed at Meadowbrook Healthcare to apply for the 10-month, full-time practical nursing program. The tuition is paid for by Meadowbrook and the students are paid their full-time CNA salary while only needing to work one shift per week, allowing them to focus on their coursework. Participants sign a three-year agreement to work at Meadowbrook after becoming licensed.
“We’re doing all we can to grow our own, to provide the level of care and services that people expect,” said Meadowbrook Administrator and CEO Paul Richards. “It’s quite an investment,” he acknowledged, adding that it equates to about $45,000 per student. Each year, five or six CNAs are accepted in the program. Students need to pass an admission exam and interview at CV-TEC. Once they have finished the program and are licensed as an LPN, graduates see a pay increase of roughly $8 per hour. “The increased income is life changing,” Richards said.
Students who enroll in the Ladder Program need to maintain an income to pay their bills, and working full time and taking the intensive 10-month program is not really feasible. “Being chosen is like winning the lottery,” said Dena Tedford, Health Careers Program Coordinator for CV-TEC. Tedford oversees all of the health careers programs for high school students and adults. Having the financial stability of their paycheck allows students to fully commit to the rigorous program. “They can get on the train and it’s moving fast,” Tedford said.
A Dream Come True
Tiffany Lacy has always wanted to work in healthcare, and being a nurse is her “dream job.” Lacy was one of five selected out of nearly 50 applicants for the program beginning in September of this year. Students are selected based on their character, competence, attendance, positive attitude, and work ethic–all core values at Meadowbrook, Richards said.
Lacy started working as a CNA at Meadowbrook while she was in high school and then moved away for a few years. When she returned to the North Country, she knew she wanted to return to Meadowbrook. “It’s like family here,” she said. “My dream is becoming a reality and it’s something I am able to accomplish because of Meadowbrook.”
“The program takes great employees and grows great LPNs,” Tedford said. “Meadowbrook is showing their belief in the people who work for them. It is an out-of-the-box idea,” she said, adding, “It is great for building the culture at the facility and, as a business decision, it is a safe bet since they are investing in employees they already have an established relationship with.”
Hard Work Pays Off
Jen Rowe graduated from the Ladder Program in 2020. Although she was nervous about it, she said she was “excitedand touched to be selected.” She made friends in the program and the other students offered a lot of support, which was really helpful. Typically, the practical nursing course has 25-30 students. “Many times, throughout the course, I wanted to give up,” Rowe admitted. “The most important piece of this was that I was supported. My boyfriend was a huge supporter. When I would feel like giving up, he would remind me how good it would feel when my son would get to say that his mom is a nurse.”
Now that the course work is behind her, Rowe is pleased she stuck it out. She is proud of what she does and enjoys connecting with the Meadowbrook residents that she cares for. “When they see me, I want them to feel that I am like family to them,” she offered. “A simple touch of their arm or hand just to connect with them, brings them so much joy. They are here for me to take care of and it’s my honor and privilege to do that.”
Meadowbrook is a 287-bed skilled nursing facility with 325 employees. The facility offers limited assistance, subacute rehabilitation, restorative therapy, and skilled nursing services. Richards estimates that 30% of employees are CNAs and there are about 75 LPNs and Registered Nurses (RNs) on staff. “Since Clinton County does not see a large influx of new residents,” Richards said, “we have to continue to show the value of working with the elderly.”
In 2004, Meadowbrook first started experimenting with the ladder program idea, recognizing there needed to be an opportunity to grow its staff. Meadowbrook and CV-TEC have a “strong, long-standing partnership,” Tedford explained. In addition to the CNA to LPN Ladder Program, Meadowbrook is a clinical site for other health careers programs CV- TEC offers. Students who have come through the practical nursing program have strong leadership skills and “recognize the opportunity that has been given to them,” she explained. “It is extremely rewarding to be a part of a program that makes such a valuable difference in our community. LPNs are absolutely critical to the functioning of all the places they work.”
“When you plant a seed, water it, nurture it, and provide it with shade, it will thrive,” Richards offered, using it as an analogy of how Meadowbrook treats its employees. The mission at Meadowbrook is to provide quality healthcare and services. The philosophy is to care for the caregiver. They, in exchange, will care for the residents. “It’s a simple formula,” Richards said. “Treat your employees as though they are your number one customer.”
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