Kate McEnerney | February 7, 2020
From neighboring communities to national associations, it was the concern Villa St. Francis Director of Nursing James Njoroge, RN, was hearing again and again. Over the past few years, a nationwide nursing shortage has left communities short-staffed, nurses overworked, and quality care difficult to maintain. And the shortage isn’t going anywhere.
According to a 2018 survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers, more than half of the RN workforce is over 50, with over 1 million registered nurses reaching retirement age in the next 10 years (American Association of Colleges of Nursing). Meanwhile, baby boomers are hitting retirement age, and the future demand for qualified nursing care is expected to skyrocket, with the senior population expected to almost double over the next 30 years (US Census Bureau).
These statistics have been felt in the Villa St. Francis community. “We have many tenured, talented nursing team members who have been with us for years, but recently, we’ve seen the influx of similar applicants start to slow,” explains Villa St. Francis Director of Human Resources Kendra Unruh.
Discussions about the situation between Njoroge, Unruh, and the rest of the leadership team, kept coming back to the Villa St. Francis mission: providing care to those in need with compassion, excellence, and dignity, regardless of their financial means. “We started to realize that many of our most valuable clinical team members joined our team years ago as CMAs who eventually worked their way through CNA training, and even through nursing school,” explained Njoroge. “That dedication and commitment to growth, paired with an environment that supported it, created incredible nurses who have been serving Villa residents for decades.” Njoroge noted that on the other hand, there were many Villa St. Francis employees who had the dedication to grow, but were prevented from doing so by outside factors.
“From finances, to family commitments, to transportation, there are many reasons that signing up for a CNA class at the local community college can seem impossible.”
That’s when it clicked. “We believe that finances should never prevent someone from receiving compassionate, 5-star care,” said Unruh, “so why should they prevent someone from providing it?”
Njoroge reached out to Michael Hays, Education Administrator for the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, to discuss the possibility of certifying Villa St. Francis to offer free, on-campus CNA classes and certification. Villa St. Francis House Supervisor Jeremiah Kuria, RN, had been teaching a CNA training course through Johnson County Community College for over seven years, and was thrilled at the opportunity to bring that training to the Villa community. Within a few short weeks, the concept was approved and planning for the first Villa St. Francis CNA Training Class began.
“Right away, we knew it was important for this to be bigger than us,” explained Villa St. Francis Director of Clinical Operations, Duke Ondieki, RN. The team decided the program would be open not just to Villa St. Francis team members, but also to the general public. Graduates are welcome to apply for a position at Villa St. Francis, or to take their new certifications to another communities, with no contracts, incentives, or loopholes.
“If we train people in our Villa mission and values, they grow developing that culture, and the mission will be ingrained in them,” explained Njoroge. “We want this program to improve care and ease the staffing problem throughout our greater community, and to empower people with a heart for caregiving to build a career doing what they love.”
The six-week pilot program began in October of 2019, and in late November, five of the first eight students passed their state CNA certification tests. All five have since applied and been hired onto the Villa St. Francis team. The second round of the program began last week, with another scheduled for later this spring. While the program is currently on a wait list, applications are still being accepted.