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New apprenticeship program to address nursing shortage in Alabama

WAFF 48's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 5:14 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - The Alabama Community College System is partnering with the Office of Apprenticeship and hospitals to launch the nurse apprenticeship program. The program is being developed to help address the ongoing nursing shortage in Alabama.

According to the Community College System, nurses are one of the top 25 highest-demand positions in Alabama. Every year, the state has more than 4,500 openings for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

In 2021, state lawmakers approved amendments to the Nurse Practice Act allowing nursing apprenticeships. On Mar. 17, new rules went into effect that allows healthcare employers to enter into an apprenticeship agreement with a sponsoring community college, according to the Community College System.

Meredith Smith, Project Manager of the Office of Apprenticeship, says this is the first apprenticeship training for LPNs and RNs in Alabama. She believes this is a great solution for the nursing shortage.

“Apprenticeship is a proven strategy for helping employers recruit, train, and retain highly-skilled employees, and most employers that we talked to are hurting in one, if not all three, of those areas, especially the healthcare industry,” said Smith.

Smith says the new apprenticeship program will be similar to an extended practicum for nursing students. However, the students will be hired by the hospital and paid for their clinical hours.

Once they complete their apprenticeship and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), apprentices can transition to full-time employment and continue working in their medical surgical unit.

“We know that application really helps students retain what they’ve learned in class, so that continued hands-on experience under the supervision of a mentor is going to lead to better retention in the nursing industry,” said Smith.

The first cohort of the apprenticeship program will start this summer at Coastal Alabama Community College and Gadsden State Community College.

Additional sponsors and employers for the apprenticeship program will be accepted in the fall, according to the Community College System.

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