In another attempt to bolster a thinning workforce of nurses, Concord Hospital announced a partnership with New England College that will allow nursing students to be hired during their training.
Students enrolled in this program will spend about a third of their time working as licensed nursing assistants at Concord Hospital. At an event Thursday morning, college and hospital administrators said the program will give students valuable clinical experience and relieve hospital employees who have worked through several waves of COVID-19.
The three-year curriculum will allow nursing students to work as paid employees of Concord Hospital— which pays a minimum of $15 an hour — after their first year of courses. Though students will be responsible for paying tuition, there are both financial aid opportunities through the college and tuition reimbursement programs through the hospital, administrators said.
“This is an important adventure not just for healthcare and nursing, but for higher education,” said NEC president Michele Perkins. “We believe we are creating a new paradigm for teaching and learning. One that provides a seamless connection between the academy and the professional workplace.”
New Hampshire, like many states, has struggled with a worsening shortage of nurses. Between June 2019 and May 2020, 2,381 nursing assistants allowed their licenses to lapse while 1,672 new licenses were issued, ultimately creating a net loss of 709 LNAs.
About one in five health care workers have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic nationwide.
Robert Steigmeyer, president and CEO of Concord Hospital, said he hopes the partnership with NEC in Henniker will create a pipeline of qualified nurses.
“What we see happening at the tail end of the surge is the buildup of a backlog of critically important non-COVID care that needs to be met,” he said. “The ramping up of non-COVID care in a significant way is challenging for all of us from a workforce perspective.”
This program is the first of its kind at NEC. Unlike the school’s other nursing programs that allow students who already have a license to finish their bachelor’s degree, this program will grant students a Bachelors of Science in Nursing along with a license.
Patrick Boyle, chief human resources officer for the hospital, acknowledged that not all students will stay in the Concord area after graduation. For those that do, Boyle said finding full-time employment won’t be a problem.
The inaugural class of 40 students will arrive at Concord Hospital in the fall of 2022 and will be eligible to work at Concord Hospital in the summer of 2024. NEC already has more than a hundred applications for the program, despite not having formally announced or advertised the partnership.
In the meantime, Steigmeyer said the hospital is investing in other strategies to address the shortage, including employing traveling nurses.
The state has taken several measures over the last year to address the nurse shortage. Several hospitals, including Concord Hospital, received “strike teams” of federal healthcare workers to aid in the COVID-19 response this winter. The Office of Professional Licensing and Certification also instituted measures to speed up the licensing process for prospective nurses.
“It’s a very big question and we are underway with a variety of initiatives,” Steigmeyer said.