▶️ COCC nursing partnership helps solve staffing issues at St. Charles


Central Oregon Community College and St. Charles Health System offer an immersive training program for hopeful future certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

The students are paid over $21 an hour. In turn, the hospital shrinks the staffing shortage.

“You’re learning a lot and also you get to see different skills and the main thing is you’re making new friends and working with them,” CNA Trainee Geraldine Whindny said. 

Both institutions say the program is largely successful. 

“Over the course of three years, we’ve brought in 165 trainees through this program,” Clinical Practice and Professional Development Specialist for St. Charles Lisa Dolinar said. “It benefits St. Charles by having the staff, but it also helps with the community, it helps with our patients. It helps with the students. They’re being paid to be here.”

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Program Director of the Nursing Assistant Program Megan Michell says it helps take some pressure off of St. Charles’ current staff.

“Before I came into this position at COCC, I had worked as a nurse at St. Charles,” Michell said. “There were quite a few days where I was called in to work as the CNA role because they just didn’t have enough. So this will help focus the nurses and be able to do the work they need to do, and have the support of competent and caring CNA’s that we’ve trained.”

St. Charles and its nurses agreed on a new 3 1/2-year contract a few weeks ago aimed at increasing pay and staffing levels. The months of contentious negotiations don’t seem to be discouraging students from joining their ranks.

“There’s a lot of reasons people may not want do it. For me, it doesn’t matter whatever I’m seeing in the media or whatever. It’s my passion to help people,” Whindny said.

Once they complete the six-week course and if they pass their certification exam, students are offered a full-time position at St. Charles Health System.

Both institutions say the program is very popular among students. They fill every class each quarter and the program serves 70 students a year.


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