Gadsden State kicks off unique new RN apprenticeship program with signing event

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Josh Laney, executive director of the Alabama Office of Apprenticeships speaks at the RN apprenticeship program signing event on Gadsden State’s Wallace Drive Campus on Thursday.
Josh Laney, executive director of the Alabama Office of Apprenticeships speaks at the RN apprenticeship program signing event on Gadsden State’s Wallace Drive Campus on Thursday.

Gadsden State Community College signaled the start of its new apprenticeship program for registered nurses during a signing event Thursday on the Wallace Drive campus, according to a press release.

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The first of its kind in the state, the program became possible after the Alabama Legislature approved amendments to the Nurse Practice Act earlier this year, the release said. The program allows health care employers to enter into an apprenticeship agreement with a community college.

Students who apply and are accepted as nurse apprentices serve as employees of the health care facility and work alongside experienced nurses, according to the release.

Gadsden State has entered into agreements with Riverview Regional Medical Center in Gadsden and Rehab Select in Albertville and Talladega, the release stated.

"We are so excited about today and what it means for our college, our students and our community," Gadsden State President Dr. Kathy Murphy said in the release. "I want to thank Riverview and Rehab Select for their support and their willingness to come alongside us as we begin this partnership."

"This program is a wonderful opportunity for our nursing students to earn a wage while learning at the same time," Kenneth Kirkland, dean of health sciences at Gadsden State, added. "The nursing students will be assigned one-on-one with a journey worker who acts as a preceptor. The one-on-one teaching/learning experience is so valuable for the students."

At Riverview, apprentices can get experience in medical/surgical units and behavioral care as well as in the emergency room and intensive care unit. Apprentices at the Rehab Select, which are long-term care facilities, will get experience in geriatric care, medical/surgical and behavioral health.

"There’s a tailored approach to each site," Kirkland said. "It is an employer-driven business model that is competency-based, which can be completed with more flexibility than a time-based program."

The program allows nursing students to attend classes and labs while working two or three days per week. The apprenticeship pays $15 an hour with a tiered-wage schedule as their competencies increase.

While Riverview and Rehab Select are the first employers with the program, Kirkland said the program will be offered to all clinical agencies that work with the college. He said that’s approximately 60 sites.

Apprentices may continue their employment following the completion of the apprenticeship and passing the National Council Licensure Examination that certifies nurses.

"This program is new and innovative," Alabama Office of Apprenticeships Executive Director Josh Laney said. "Not only is it the first of its kind in our state, but it’s a relatively new concept nationally. A lot of eyes are on this program. I look forward to many years of success so that we can continue to help with the nursing shortage."

The student apprentices recruited and employed by Riverview Regional Medical Center are Jennifer Chambers, Christian Matthew Cleghorn, Stephen Davidson, Maria Grace Dixon, Kalleigh Hansen, Lauren Hanvey, MyKayla Paschal, Tara Pearson, Hayden Smith and Rachel Stanfield.

Student apprentices for Rehab Select are Kasey Lynn Doughty, Marshall Grace Williams, Haylee Ann Wilson, Shanna Renee Mullinax and Shayla Latriece Swain.

The 14 students publicly signed standard documents that outline the RN apprenticeship program at Thursday's event.

"What is expected of each of us is clearly defined," Laney said. "All of us need to understand our roles and responsibilities and recognize the strong partnerships we are forming."

For more information on the Gadsden State nursing program, visit https://www.gadsdenstate.edu/programs-of-study/nursing.cms.

J.J. Hicks is a news reporter at The Gadsden Times. He can be reached at jhicks1@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Gadsden State RN program is first of its kind in state of Alabama