Providing a 'spark' to future nurses


In 2014, Maple Crest in Fayette started a unique CNA (certified nursing assistant) program to help those interested in the healthcare field get a start while also benefiting its own staffing crisis. Among those involved with the program include (l-r) Megan Hanson, office manager; Samantha Jones, licensed practical nurse; Nancy Lyons, director of nursing; Jamie Fredrick, registered nurse; and Janet Degenford, administrator. (Zakary Kriener photo)


Providing a 'spark' to future nurses



Zakary Kriener

News Writer




Like virtually every healthcare facility across the country, Maple Crest in Fayette has suffered from a staffing crisis over recent years. In 2014, the local facility took a first-of-it’s-kind step to help combat that crisis while also helping individuals interested in pursuing a career in healthcare.

“We were looking for a way to get people (staff) in here, so we partnered with NICC (Northeast Iowa Community College) and developed a CNA (certified nursing aid) program that would help give future healthcare workers a little spark to get them going in the field,” explained Megan Hanson, office manager at Maple Crest. “Today, these types of programs are common at most nursing homes, but we were the first to do it in the area.”

The unique program helps anyone from the community who is interested in the healthcare or nursing field get a start by helping cover the costs associated with taking classes and obtaining the proper equipment.

“The program is open to anyone. All they have to do is come into our facility and talk with one of us,” continued Hanson. “The process begins with an application, followed by an interview and then a job shadow. If we feel that an individual meets the requirements that we are looking for, we move ahead with the class.”

The CNA program at NICC is a 75-hour class that readies individuals to work in the healthcare field.

“With the program, we pay for the class fee, scrubs, a TB test, a background check, and the fee for taking State boards,” said Hanson. “The total ends up being (approximately) $775, which is a huge benefit to the students/employees.”

Maple Crest director of nursing Nancy Lyons went on to explain that the only requirement for individuals is that they work at Maple Crest while they are taking the course and then work a minimum of six months after officially becoming a CNA. 

“In the very first year, we had seven students take the course,” continued Hanson. “In total, we have put about 30 people through the class and retained each of them for a period of time.”

While some of the individuals who take the course only earn their CNA certificate, others have continued to advance in the healthcare field, including registered nurse Jamie Fredrick and licensed practical nurse Samantha Jones.

“I was looking for a job and didn’t want to be working in a factory anymore. I also knew that I wanted to do something that would allow me to help people,” explained Jones of her decision to enroll in the program in 2014. “I heard about it on Facebook and pursued it and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Similarly, Fredrick knew that she wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare field and found the Maple Crest CNA program to be the deciding factor in helping her follow her dreams.

“I likely would have gotten started in nursing eventually on my own, but this program really helped me get going with it much sooner,” said Fredrick. “After the CNA course, I stuck with nursing and was able to get to where I am today.”

Jones and Fredrick both continued to work at Maple Crest as they advanced their nursing careers at NICC. The two young nurses noted that the Fayette facility’s willingness to work with their schedules and accommodate them in other ways have helped build a great relationship between themselves and their employer.

“That is just one of the many reasons that I have chosen to stay here and continue working,” said Jones. “I have always felt comfortable here and the people here have made a great environment that has allowed me to chase my nursing goals while continuing to work.”

Nancy Lyons, the director of nursing at Maple Crest, went on to say that the facility also offers tutoring for students in the program as they prepare for board testing, something that has proved to be quite valuable in the past.

“We have nurses on staff here that will work with the younger individuals in the program to ensure that they are ready for their exams,” said Lyons. “They essentially provide a mock test that is similar to the one they will be taking when they go to take their boards.”

While the CNA program certainly provides many benefits to the individuals who go through it, it also provides benefits to Maple Crest.

“The program has allowed us to obtain more staff and draw more people into the healthcare field as a whole,” said Hanson. “I think the most rewarding part, however, is to see people fall in love with this field and progress through the ranks as they become better healthcare workers.”

Lyons added to Hanson’s comments, noting that she is extremely pleased with how the program has taken off.

“I feel that the program is doing very well and has exceeded our expectations from when we first started this,” closed Lyons. “It has been great to watch people grow as they climb the nursing ranks if they choose, but we also have employees who prefer to stay as a CNA, which is great too! We’re just happy to be able to provide them with a tool to find their passion for healthcare.”



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