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How the Pandemic is Moving Ameritech, and Nursing Education, Forward

How the pandemic is moving Ameritech, and nursing education, forward

Throughout the constant upheaval of the pandemic, one thing has always remained certain: without our nurses and other healthcare providers, it would have been impossible to make it through the last year. But the long hours, sleepless nights, and increasing demand for more nurses have created an avenue for the senior nursing students at Ameritech College of Healthcare to step up to new heights and enter the field as full-time nurses through a temporary nursing apprenticeship program

The program was announced by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing in late 2020 as a response to the demand for nurses during the spike of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Ameritech has encouraged more than 230 of its student nurses to apply to the apprenticeship program to lend support with the shortage of medical personnel, which has also enhanced the students’ education through real-world experience in the field. 

“Before the program was initiated, nurses state-wide were feeling overwhelmed, burned out, and ready to quit. If the apprenticeship program had not been instated during the pandemic, the nursing shortage could have been greatly increased,” says Dean of Nursing at Ameritech, Dr. Lisa Harper, RN, BSN, MSN, Ph.D. 

According to Dr. Harper, the benefits of the program extend beyond providing support for burnt-out nurses. Because the students in the program are hired to support, cover, and relieve the current workforce, they are given the necessary first-hand experience in the field many nursing students won’t get until after graduation. Moreover, student apprentices may be offered full-time employment at the healthcare facilities where they’re apprenticing immediately upon passing the NCLEX exam. 

“The program allows hospitals and clinics to educate student nurses as they would a new employee. This gives students an in-depth understanding of patient care,” says Dr. Harper. “And the program really supports the employment of nurses right out of nursing school. It allows students to get a feel for the institution that they apprentice with to see if the facility or corporation is a good fit for them.” 

Reinventing nursing education

Though the program was originally created as a way for nurses to get some much-needed relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to real-world patient care for nursing students is exactly why the state is considering extending the temporary licensure program, even after the effects of the pandemic have subsided. “[The program has] been such a learning experience,” says Ashley Mansell, a participating student in her final year of Ameritech’s BSN program who was paired with a CNA at St. Mark’s Hospital. “Getting experience with real patient care is something that you can only get with this kind of program.”

As a result of nursing students like those from Ameritech providing much needed relief for professional nurses during the pandemic, hospitals and healthcare clinics couldn’t be more supportive of the apprenticeship program. “The hospital staff seemed very appreciative of the extra support during the pandemic through the apprenticeship program. The apprentices were able to provide support in acute care through long term care settings, while gaining valuable skills needed to press forward in their learning and development. Overall, this opportunity was a win for the nursing profession, and I hope this becomes permanent. We’ve heard the same sentiments from executives at our clinical facilities as well,” says Clinical Relations Manager at Ameritech, Chad Perreault MSN, RN, CRRN. 

While the state originally implemented the program for emergency COVID relief, it is expected but not confirmed that the program will continue to further the education of nursing students. “I think it would be a great program to continue on with nursing school students post-COVID,” says Mansell. “I also think any nursing school student should sign up for this. It’s something that gives you experience and knowledge and will better help prepare them to be on their own as a nurse in the future.”

Though the future of the apprenticeship program is still undetermined, it’s no secret that Ameritech College of Healthcare is continuing to find new and innovative ways to provide their students with learning opportunities that will set them up for a successful career in healthcare. A career in nursing is a terrific way to give back to a community in need, pandemic or not, and Ameritech will be here to support students pursuing a career in healthcare along the way. 

Chad Perreault is a MSN, RN, CRRN. Dr. Lisa Harper is the Dean of Nursing at Ameritech College of Healthcare.