HACC Lebanon unveils fully funded nurse aide program

(LDnews.com) With a growing demand for certified nurse aides, HACC Lebanon Campus unveiled a new tuition-free program for Lebanon County residents Wednesday.

HACC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski announced the Certified Nurse Aide program at a news conference on the local campus with local dignitaries.

“This is really quite an exciting day in Lebanon,” Sygielski said. “We know that health careers are critical to the future of a lot of our service region, but particularly here in the Lebanon area. About 30 percent of the population in our area are over the age of 55.”

The Certified Nurse Aide program is offered at other campuses in the HACC system, but in Lebanon all of the student’s tuition will be paid through the Francis J. Dixon Foundation. Tuition for the program is about $900.

“We know that you care greatly about the success of students and the success of the lives in this community,” Sygielski said.

Because their tuition will be paid, students who enroll in the program, which will start in May, will be able to better focus on their classes, he added.

The three-and-a half-week program will consist of 120 contact hours per course. Each course is limited to 10 students. Students will be instructed in a classroom and laboratory, as well as at clinical sites. This approach includes theoretical and real-world instruction.

Within 90 days of completing the program, students whose tuition is funded by the Dixon Foundation must take the Pennsylvania Nurse

Aide Examination. College officials said more than 84 percent of HACC students pass the exam.

“The program itself is a very solid program. It’s a program that our employers – Good Samaritan (Hospital) and others – have a real place for the students who graduate,” Sygielski said.

Students who complete the program may move into other health-care fields, such as nursing.

“We believe this opens doors for so many of our students,” he added.

Frank Dixon said he was excited about the program.

“It’s going to appeal, hopefully, to an element of our society who normally aren’t offered a lot of good opportunities in life,” Dixon said. “This announcement today of a three-and-a-half week course, I believe, is truly a life-changing opportunity for such a large element of our population.”

Dixon pointed out the current and future demand for nurse aides, with the 65-and-over population being the second-highest population category in the state and one of the highest in the nation.

“The 65-and-over population will grow by another 25 percent by the year 2020. There will be 20 out of every 100 people in the county of Lebanon who will be 65 years of age or older,” he said.

He said the demand for both male and female certified nurse assistants is increasing.

“I understand that at any time right now in just nursing homes in the county of Lebanon, there are 30 positions to be filled,” he said. “And if the population 65 and over is going to grow that much, you know what’s going to happen in the near future.”

Residents who did not finish high school or receive a GED are eligible to enroll in the program. He encouraged residents looking for a lifelong career to apply. Salaries for certified nursing aides range from $10 per hour to $16 per hour, according to college officials.

“In just three and a half weeks, they can change their life. They can become certified. They become in demand, and instead of having to go out and hunt for a job, employers will be looking for them,” he added.

Kathleen Kramer, vice president of the local campus, said the instructors will determine the course schedules, but she added that college hopes to provide a variety of different times for the classes.

“This is really an exciting opportunity, and I know the assumption is that nurse aides don’t always go on, but I’m an example of somebody who did go on. There is room for advancement in nursing,” Kramer said.

Federal financial aid is not available for this kind of program, which makes it difficult for potential students to fund themselves, college officials said.

While the tuition will be paid for those who graduate the program, college officials said there are some other costs, such as uniforms and nursing supplies, that students would have to pick up. These costs may range between $100 and $200.

Lauren Youngs, president of the Student Government Association for the Lebanon Campus, said she believes the program will be very successful, “because there are a lot of nurses here and they want to get involved again.”

The college is offering two public information sessions on the program: March 14 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. in HACC Lebanon’s Room 113; and, April 18 from 5-7 p.m. in the college lobby.

To sign up for an information session, call 717-270-4222, select option 0.