Thanks to a new partnership between Central Oregon Community College (COCC) and St. Charles Health System, the number of trained health care workers in Central Oregon will begin to grow through a certified nursing assistant instruction program held at the Bend hospital.
COCC and St. Charles recently signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines a two-year pilot project designed to offer non-credit education to hospital caregivers and community members seeking a new role in health care.
The program will combine college-level lectures and labs — both online and in-person — taught by COCC faculty at the hospital, as well as clinical instruction provided by St. Charles staff. It will be offered at no cost to St. Charles caregivers.
“There’s a dire need for certified nursing assistants all across the country,” said Julie Downing, instructional dean at COCC, who oversees the college’s health careers programming. “This will help our area address that workforce gap. For St. Charles caregivers and community members who are currently in other roles, it promises a new job in health care at the end.”
Through the program, which will feature content approved by the Oregon State Board of Nursing, students will have the opportunity to take a noncredit class each term.
Over the next two years, COCC will offer at least eight CNA classes, including both CNA-1 and CNA-2 coursework, at St. Charles. The first 10-person CNA-1 class begins Oct. 12; any unfilled openings will be available to COCC students.
An ongoing need for nursing assistants at St. Charles put the program into motion.
“We currently have 29 CNA positions we are looking to fill,” said Debbie Robinson, St. Charles Bend’s chief nursing officer. “This is a great opportunity for our caregivers who are working in other fields to explore a clinical role as a certified nursing assistant.”
Health care has seen a surge in demand for skilled workers in recent years due to the country’s aging baby boomer population, which is some 73-million strong and requiring more health services.
“Finding new ways to grow regional workforce development is a central part of our mission,” said Laurie Chesley, president of COCC. “St. Charles has long been an active partner with COCC, dating back to the start of our nursing program in the 1950s. We’re excited to keep investing in this relationship for the betterment and well-being of Central Oregon.”
The new program adds to other recent developments in COCC’s nursing training. In 2017, COCC joined with Ridgeview High School in Redmond to create and oversee an in-house certified nursing assistant program.
And beginning in the fall of 2021, the college’s nursing program — recognized with national accreditation last spring — will expand its cohort size from 48 to 56 students.