High school partnership puts nursing degrees in adults’ hands

Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 6:22 AM EST
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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s never too late to learn something new. You could become a dental assistant, get your CDL or even just learn how to make pasta as part of St. Johnsbury Academy’s Adult Education Program.

Now, a new skill is being offered and it could come with a new career.

Vermont has needed nurses for years. Sen. Bernie Sanders highlighted the problem and now thanks to money secured in part by Sen. Sanders, the St. Johnsbury Academy and the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and other NEK organizations are partnering to get nurses in the classroom and into scrubs faster than ever.

The St. Johnsbury Academy isn’t just for high schoolers, it’s for adults trying to bolster their education, too. Come this spring, a new partnership will allow those learners to get licensed in nursing to the degree of their choosing.

“The goal is that yes, a person could come in and say I’d like to be an LNA. They’d sign up for a class, they get to clinical at the hospital, they become an LNA, and then they could decide if they wanted to stay there or move and become another,” said Sandra Mings Lamar with the St. Johnsbury Academy.

It’s known as “career laddering,” students working their way up in the field all while continuing their education

Director of Adult Education Sandra Mings Lamar said class times would be flexible based on when adults are available.

The Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital benefits from gaining younger help at a time when CEO Shawn Tester says a pre-pandemic study showed more of their nursing staff were closer to retirement than at the start of their career.

“We knew that we had a serious problem on our hands as we looked forward into the aging demographic of our workforce,” said Tester.

He said there are dozens of nursing positions open at the hospital right now noting that many nearby hospitals are in similar or worse positions.

“That doesn’t even address the need in our nursing homes. Skilled nursing facilities and home health programs,” said Tester.

Patrick Guckin at the Academy says the program is designed to address the shortage and grow the workforce.

“Everyone that would like to maybe have a change in career or to improve their professional studies and so forth and move maybe from an LNA to an LPN and then see that change,” said Guckin.

The Academy says it hopes to run three rotations of the LNA program a year, with roughly 30 students passing through with a goal of bringing on even more.

This program is funded in part by $473,000 from Senator Sanders’ omnibus grants. The academy says this is enough to get it rolling, but they’d need to figure out how to sustain it.

You have to pay tuition to be in the program, but the academy says there are lots of grants available for students to apply for through the Department of Labor and through the Vermont Student Assistant Corporation (VSAC).