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America is Facing a Shortage of Healthcare Workers Copley is Solving the Problem in a Unique Way: We’re "Growing Our Own!"

by Trish Rick
VP, Development & Marketing
Copley Hospital
 
Across the country, hospitals and medical centers are struggling with a shortage of qualified nurses, lab technicians, and other medical staff. Take a quick glance through the medical help-wanted ads at nearly every hospital in America and you’ll find scores of open —and unfilled—positions. Some organizations have seen reductions in nursing and medical staff due to the stress and fatigue caused by the now two-year old COVID pandemic; others have simply been unable to locate, attract and retain qualified workers.
“It’s a problem on a national level,” said Copley CEO Joe Woodin, “but it’s especially hard in rural areas. We’re fortunate to be situated in one of the most beautiful areas of the country—not to mention Vermont—but it still takes a special kind of person to want to settle here.
 
Recruiting and attracting the kind of high quality practitioners we need is a full time endeavor. It never stops.” Fortunately, Woodin said, Copley is finding success in addressing the problem, and it’s doing so in typically Vermont fashion.
 
“Our Nursing Assistant Training Program (NATP) gained final approval by the State of Vermont this past spring with our first cohort of students entering the program during the first week of May 2021,” he said, “and through a partnership with Utah-based Weber University, we have just about solved our shortage of lab technicians.”
 
“We have had such a need for nurses and assistants,” said Chief Nursing Officer Lori Profota, DNP, RN, NE-BC. “Now, through our own training program, we are helping people right here in Central Vermont find jobs with a future as they prepare to successfully pass the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) exam. Passing that exam is the first step in building a career in nursing. After that, it is our hope they will continue their new career here at Copley or at one of our community partners—Lamoille Home Health and Hospice, The Manor, or another long-term care facility.”
 
“We’re using the American Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training curriculum,” Profota said,
“which includes 40 hours of online theory, 16 hours of lab/skill practice, and 30 hours of clinical experience. The program is designed to help candidates prepare for both the challenges and emotional elements of the job, as well as develop the hard and soft skills they’ll need to succeed.”
 
“Skilled nurses and nursing assistants can find work anywhere in the country,” Profota added, “but we’re hoping our students—most of whom live and work right here in Lamoille County—will choose to stay here and work for us.”
 
In tandem with this initiative, Lab Director Amy Shopland reports that Copley is addressing its shortage of lab technicians in a similar way.
 
“There’s a huge shortage of lab technicians nationwide,” she said, “not just here in Vermont. Many medical students are unaware the profession even exists, and there are very few schools that offer programs in this area of healthcare. For small hospitals like Copley, that presents a problem. With only two schools in the area offering courses in lab technology—and graduates of those schools having numerous opportunities to choose from—we decided to take matters into our own hands. If we couldn’t attract qualified lab technicians, we’d train our own.”
 
To accomplish this, Copley partnered with Utah-based Weber University to take advantage of its online degree program. “Weber provides the online courses; we provide the hands-on training, instruction, and clinical experience,” Shopland said. “Students learn the science of lab technology by doing the actual clinical work under the supervision of our seasoned Lab Techs as they work towards their degrees.”
 
“When they enter the program,” Shopland pointed out, “students make a 3-year commitment to work right here at Copley. It’s our hope, however, that they’ll stay longer than that! We’ve had a lot of local interest in the program and so far, it’s performing very well.”
 
While the rest of the nation figures out how to solve the growing problem of attracting and
retaining qualified nurses, technicians, and other medical personnel, Copley—in true Vermont fashion—has found its own solution. “We’re growing our own!”