April 29, 2023

By Janice Phelan
Communications and Marketing University of Central Missouri-Missouri Innovation Campus

A nationally recognized partnership designed to provide quality training for high-demand CNA (certified nursing assistant) positions is now in its fifth year at University Health Lakewood Medical Center. Developed by the University of Central Missouri and University Health, the learn-as-you-earn program offers debt-free scholarships to qualifying adult learners as well as both salary and benefits during the training period.

Pictured from left are Kimiko Fowlkes, director of nursing at University Health’s Lakewood Care Center; Kynnadi Pearson, University Health CNA; and Shelby Farmer, University Health LPN supervisor

Through this homegrown education opportunity, CNAs complete a rigorous curriculum in a supportive environment while also gaining real-life experiences during supervised clinicals at University Health. A total of 26 current employees at the medical center have earned their CNA certificate from the University of Central Missouri (UCM) since the partnership launched in 2019.

“The current competition for and retention of CNAs is extremely challenging,” said Lynette M. Wheeler, DNP, RN, LNHA, FABC and chief operating officer at University Health. “The supply and demand for CNAs is high. Agencies are hiring CNAs at very high rates that we cannot compete with. We feel fortunate if we can keep a new CNA for one year!”

Pictured from left are Aveon Overall; Kimiko Fowlkes, director of nursing; and Akiya Overall. Sisters Aveon and Akiya Overall are CNA students completing their clinicals at University Health

Thanks to scholarships through the Full Employment Council, qualifying CNA certificate students are able to complete the program without paying tuition or taking on educational debt. University Health also pays tuition for some adult learners.

Throughout the CNA training, University Health provides students with a benefits-eligible job. Each successful CNA graduate is also offered a job at University Health, Wheeler added, with the partnership delivering well-trained candidates who already understand the workplace and its requirements.

“Students who complete the training can enter full time positions prepared to do the job immediately, and know the environment they will work in,” she said. “We reduce recruitment time and expenses, and know exactly what level of training has been accomplished.”

Kimiko Fowlkes, director of nursing at University Health’s Lakewood Care Center, said she appreciates being involved in the partnership and helping teach the next generation of healthcare workers.

“I love our nursing assistant program,” Fowlkes added. “It allows Long Term Care to grow our own CNAs and instill University Health’s values into students during those first steps of learning. The students form relationships with the staff and residents from day one and by the time they receive their certification, they are ready to transition into their full-time and part-time position with University Health.”

In 2022, UCM’s Center for Workforce and Professional Education captured national recognition for this learn-as-you-earn CNA partnership, which involves several healthcare facilities and funding organizations. The CNA program received an Outstanding Program Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).

Individuals interested in enrolling in the CNA or other UCM certificate programs may visit the UCM Center for Workforce and Professional Education webpage, ucmo.edu, or contact Dir at dir@ucmo.edu. The CNA program can be completed in a few months.

The University of Central Missouri operates campus locations in Warrensburg, Online and Lee’s Summit with UCM’s Workforce and Professional Education programs housed at the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit.

University Health Lakewood Medical Center is a 117-bed community hospital, located in Eastern Jackson County. Lead service lines located on campus include Family Medicine, Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Obstetrics and GI. A 188-bed long-term care facility is attached to the hospital. The campus is also home to the UMKC School of Medicine Community and Family Medicine Residency program.

The Full Employment Council is a non-profit employment agency that helps unemployed and underemployed Missourians in the Kansas City and Eastern Jackson County areas prepare for and find sustainable careers while also providing supportive services to aid in their success.