Public Health Pathways Program Created to Solve for Nurse Shortage

photo courtesy of CCBC-
Baltimore County, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center (UM SJMC) and the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) announced the Public Health Pathways Program, an innovative workforce development partnership that aims to connect residents in historically underserved communities with high-demand nursing positions through customized educational programming and community wraparound supports.

The joint initiative will leverage federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding to meet dual imperatives of providing workforce training to economically disadvantaged residents while helping to address a national nursing shortage.

“We believe we have an opportunity and an obligation to provide more economic opportunity for our residents. We enthusiastically launch an incredible program that will pull some of our most financially vulnerable residents out of poverty by giving them a pathway to rewarding careers in healthcare with one of the country’s most esteemed medical systems,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

“We are grateful to the University of Maryland Medical System, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, the Community College of Baltimore County and our County, state and federal partners for investing in our most important assets: our people.”

“Building public-private partnerships such as this are essential to furthering workforce development opportunities that are a critical piece of addressing the staffing challenges facing the healthcare industry,” said Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA, President and CEO of the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). “We are confident that our financial investment will pay dividends both for the community members hired as well as for patients we serve.”

“The pandemic stretched thin our invaluable medical professionals and first responders, while exposing critical gaps in our healthcare systems. Our communities need an infusion of trained talent in the public health fields, and my colleagues and I were highly mindful of this reality when crafting the American Rescue Plan,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee.

“This announcement by the dynamic partners from Baltimore County, CCBC and St. Joseph’s Medical Center moves us in exactly the right direction, providing life-changing opportunities to those selected for the program and potentially life-saving care to their eventual patients.”

The Public Health Pathways Program pilot will initially provide 30 scholarships that will fully cover the cost of tuition and all educational fees for the CCBC Certified Nursing Assistant program.

In order to remove barriers to learning, students selected to participate in the program will also receive a $1,000 per month workforce stipend, which can be flexibly used to supplement wages, address transportation or housing needs, and pay for childcare, or other workforce-related barriers. Participants will receive additional financial incentives upon completion of educational programs.

“This program is exactly the type of innovative investment I hoped for when I voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan Act and fought to send money directly to our state and local governments,” Congressman Ruppersberger said.

“All of the underserved students who benefit from these federal funds will graduate with a guaranteed job offer in a career they can be proud of, earning livable wages and contributing back to our local economy while also addressing the national nursing shortage. I want to thank Baltimore County, the University of Maryland Medical System and St. Joseph Medical Center for their collaboration, creativity and service to the community.”

Upon successful completion of CCBC’s Certified Nursing Assistant program, graduates will be offered guaranteed employment with full benefits at UM SJMC, where they will continue their education in a Practical Nursing program, creating a career ladder to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs). In total, participants will receive a 24-month education program including four months of CNA training, four months of pre-requisites, and 16 months of LPN education.

This $1.175 million workforce development collaboration is funded through a combination of Baltimore County federal ARPA funds and a $500,000 investment from UMMS.

“As an anchor institution in our community, University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center is thrilled to partner with Baltimore County government and CCBC in providing career opportunities to those called to serve in the field of health care,” said Thomas B. Smyth, MD, President and CEO at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.

“By offering these opportunities, we hope to inspire and empower a new generation of health care providers ready to provide loving service and compassionate care.”

“We are proud to join the County Executive and University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center to provide resources to fund Public Health Pathways, which is designed to meet the ever present healthcare industry workforce needs,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis.

“This is what we do best: reskill and upskill today’s workers. We look forward to this partnership, which will create opportunities for economic independence among students whose options otherwise may be limited.”

CCBC and UM SJMC will collaborate to develop a work and learning schedule that promotes success, including offering courses on-site and identifying opportunities to blend the work and learning experience.

Additionally, the organizations will provide mentorship, tutoring, and support for all participants to ensure that they graduate as LPNs, thereby moving these participants into high-skill and high-demand careers.

The Public Health Pathways Program application, including eligibility requirements, are expected to be released in early January 2023 with the first cohort of trainees expected begin coursework in summer 2023.

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