As the demand for qualified nursing increases on the local and national levels, Fulton-Montgomery Community College is offering a program to help unemployed workers train to work in health care.
"I think there's a very high demand for high-quality nurses within our hospital and within the region," said Michele Walsh, the vice president of nursing at St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam. "As the population ages and the baby boomers age, that's going to do nothing but expand."
In March, FMCC received a $3.8 million Healthcare Employment and Leadership Training Hub grant from the U.S. Department of Labor through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. According to a news release from the college, the grant will help unemployed and incumbent workers in Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties begin a career or advance in the health care field.
Brittany Wilmot works as a nurse to Lisa Hinkle during a nursing class at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
"What FM will offer is for current nursing students to get even more training," said Cheryl McGrattan, a spokeswoman for Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville.
Jean Karutis, director of FM's TRiO programs, assisted with obtaining the funding. She also led the effort over the summer to recruit students to use the funding. In the news release, Karutis said FM has 29 pre-resident nurses and resident nurses in the program and 45 students who have either completed certified nurse's assistant training or recently entered training.
"The $3.8 million is spread over a three-year period, and the goal of the grant is to allow for a total of 17 RNs and 102 CNAs and 114 RN supervisors to be trained," Karutis said in the news release.
McGrattan said nursing is one of the smartest careers a person can enter into.
"You have a set of skills that you can carry with you throughout the country," she said. "You can pick up as a nurse in Gloversville and move to San Francisco and that skill set will follow you. It's an investment in yourself as a person and a professional."
According to Karutis, people looking to take advantage of the HEALTH program must live in either Fulton, Montgomery or Schoharie counties. They must be unemployed or incumbent workers who need training to secure full-time employment, advance in their careers, or retain their current occupations, the release said.
Karutis said in the release the program includes supportive services, which will include the cost of tuition, books, training materials, testing fees and uniforms. The release also said the cost for transportation to and from training and costs for those who need child care during training will be covered on an as-needed basis for those who qualify.
"It's very beneficial to the community," Walsh said. "It gives people a chance for solid employment opportunities. It gives the hospitals a pipeline of nurses that live within the community."
Over the past several years, both hospitals have opened outpatient facilities throughout Fulton and Montgomery counties, driving their demand for nursing even higher. However, McGrattan says the national "nursing shortage" that's talked about throughout the country doesn't apply to Nathan Littauer.
"We have two or three generations of nurses working at the hospital at the same time," she said.
Walsh said the use of the outpatient centers by St. Mary's helps keep the sicker patients in the main hospital.
"We have to work harder to make sure that our nurses are trained for as much as possible and to get more high-quality nurses," she said.
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.