Opportunities Abound for Nurses, Medical Aides in Phelps County

24 Aug 2017

NOTE: This is the second in series of stories about high-demand jobs in Phelps County. To read the first article about the need for diesel, ag and automotive technicians, please visit  www.phelpscountyne.com/phelps/news/?item=13244


Anyone considering a career in nursing will find many opportunities in Phelps County.

With two major long-term care facilities, a regional hospital and two medical clinics in Holdrege, the demand for quality nursing staff continues to grow and provides a great career path for those interested in serving those who are sick, aging or in need of any medical care.

Daniel Wojtalewicz, senior vice president of human resources at Phelps Memorial Health Center, said an aging Baby Boomer population is causing some of the shortages nationwide in nursing.

“As those Baby Boomers retire, and they worked as nurses and aides, that creates a natural shortage. And we just have a smaller pool to replace them,” he said. “And on the flip side, now that they are retiring, they are entering the medical facilities for care, and now there’s an influx of patients that are coming in.”

The nursing shortage isn’t just isolated to Phelps County. According to the University of Nebraska, the state will face a nursing shortage of 3,838 nurses by the year 2020.

To help in the recruitment of nursing staff, local facilities provide scholarships, training reimbursement and sign-on bonuses for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), Medication Aides, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs).

“We’re having trouble filling all of our nursing jobs,” said Lori Reiner, foundation and public relations director at Holdrege Memorial Homes. “We’ve had CNA positions open since I started two-and-a-half years ago. CNAs, LPNs and RN’s are a pretty high commodity now.”

Reiner said currently the home currently has two openings for an LPN or RN (choice of full or part-time) and could use more CNAs.

Holdrege Homes offers a $1,500 sign-on bonus to all nursing staff plus excellent benefits, including health insurance and a 401K. The facility also offers yearly scholarship opportunities.

PMHC Nursing Leader Miki Nichols said the hospital has openings for three RNs or LPNs and one EMT or paramedic.

Nichols, who has worked at Phelps Memorial for 25 years, said nurses might like the variety of care options they can provide at PMHC, ranging from geriatrics to baby deliveries and emergency room and surgical recovery work. The starting wage at Phelps Memorial for an RN with no experience or certifications would be around $25 an hour, Nichols said.

If someone is interested in a medical career but doesn’t have the resources or education, local facilities are more than willing to help train the right people.

PMHC helps nurses advance in their career by paying tuition and offering flexible work schedules for those who want to further their education and earn certifications or advanced degrees.

Cherlyn Hunt, the new Executive Director at Christian Homes, said Central Community College has been trying to help with the nursing shortage in this area of the state.

While there are many career paths and ways to reach those paths in nursing, the CNA course is a great first step. CCC in Holdrege offers the 76-hour CNA class several times each year. The cost is $395, and it’s a great way to kick off a nursing career. CCC also offers Medication Aide classes.

Cindy Peterson, Director of Nursing at Christian Homes Care Community, said she is currently seeking one overnight LP or RN and three full-time CNAs or Medication Aides.

Christian Homes offers reimbursement for the cost of the CNA certification class for their staff. The facility also offers a loan or tuition reimbursement program for employees who further their training to become LPNs or RNs.

Peterson said it’s becoming easier to obtain further education in nursing with the growth of online educational options and the ability to attend school part time.

Christian Homes offers sign-on bonuses ranging from $2,000-$4,000 depending on the position as a further incentive to recruit nursing staff.

Some of the qualities that managers are seeking in a potential nurses are patience, dependability, a caring attitude, reliability, good communication and relationship skills, and the ability to solve problems and remain calm in stressful situations.

Nursing can be taxing both physically (with long hours standing and lifting patients) and mentally (seeing patients get sicker or die), but those who’ve worked in nursing say the rewards are worth the effort.

Hunt, who started her career as a nursing home volunteer when she was 11, said she never gets tired of the feeling of making someone’s day better.

“It’s extremely rewarding to see their eyes light up and bring them joy for the day,” she said of nursing home patients.

Peterson agreed.

“Even on the toughest day, it is still rewarding when you go home knowing you made someone’s day brighter.”

Those who work in nursing also said that co-workers and patients become like a second family, which is also an added bonus to a nursing career.

“We’re all just a big family here instead of the patient in room 203,” PMHC’s Nichols said.

The Phelps County Development Corporation in partnership with the Phelps County Community Foundation offers annual High-Demand Jobs Scholarships for anyone considering a career in nursing (and other high-demand jobs) with plans to work in Phelps County after graduation. The scholarship deadline is in February of each year. For more information, please visit www.phelpscountyne.com/phelps/workforce-&-careers/start-a-career#HDJ.

To find information about upcoming CNA and Medication Aide Classes at Central Community College’s Holdrege campus, visit https://www.cccneb.edu/NurseAide/.