2007-10-26 / Community

Bloomberg Launches Program For Poor To Become Nurses

Mayor Bloomberg today announced a new Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) initiative that will create the Nurse Career Ladder Program for 400 mainly poor and low-income New Yorkers to enter and advance in the nursing profession over the next four school years. The program fills two needs: it creates a career ladder program in a growth industry, and it provides healthcare facilities with nurses who are currently in short supply. Joining the Mayor at Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island were CEO Executive Director Veronica White; Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) President Alan D. Aviles; Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm; District 79 Alternative High Schools and Programs Superintendent Cami Anderson and Long Island University School of Nursing Dean Dawn F. Kilts. This initiative puts into action another Center for Economic Opportunity recommendation, and it will focus on helping entry-level healthcare and other lowwage workers take advantage of an opportunity to earn a degree as a registered nurse (RN) or a certificate to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN).

"The number of people who work yet still remain in poverty continues to grow," said Mayor Bloomberg. "While traditional job-training programs focus on basic education, they seldom address employer needs, and often result in low worker wages and slow career advancement opportunities. The Nurse Career Ladder program will help to raise the living standards of lowwage workers by enabling them to learn a skill or earn a degree in a field that is projected to offer higher wages and future growth."

The September 2006 CEO report recommended the establishment of career pathways for entry-level employees in growing industries by providing training opportunities that would allow for career advancement and increased sustainable wages. Career ladder programs promote and support the professional development of low-wage workers who have mastered entrylevel jobs, help to build their careers, facilitate transition from one field to another, and help them realize stable career options for the future. The program is particularly important because the current shortage in the nursing industry is expected to worsen, creating the opportunity for major growth in the field. The training program will help low income-earning workers who are already in the nursing profession to advance, as well as those New Yorkers who are eager to enter the healthcare field. The CEO has committed over $10 million to the program: $3 million for the operation of the program and more than $7 million over two years to build the RN school at Kings County Hospital. "The Center for Economic Opportunity is committed to providing workforce development opportunities, and the Nurse Career Ladder program is one way to address the nursing shortage while providing qualified low-wage workers with the opportunity and assistance to achieve well-paying and sustainable careers in healthcare," said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs.

There are two degree programs for nurses - the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program and the Registered Nurses (RN) program, both of which guarantee licensed graduates employment at an HHC facility with respective starting salaries between $37,000 and $62,000 a year. At least two-thirds of all participants will be low-income wage earners or the working poor, earning less than 130% of the federal poverty level - which is $26,840 for a family of four. HHC has committed to recruiting the remaining one-third from its current employee base. The subsequent vacancies created by employees moving into these programs will provide entry-level job opportunities for additional New Yorkers, including poor and low-income residents living in the communities where HHC facilities are located.

Each year, a total of 100 scholarships will be awarded to participants in both the LPN and RN programs, and prospective students in each program will be offered prep course review for entrance examinations. The one-year Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) training program will offer 40 scholarships per year at Coler- Goldwater Specialty Hospital, and a total of 160 students will be enrolled in the program over four school years, with City funding in fiscal years 2007 through 2011. The LPN students will be recruited directly from the Department of Education's (DOE) Adult and Continuing Education program, City job centers, and through referrals from community based organizations. The RN program will award 40 annual scholarships with CEO funding and HHC will fund 20 annual scholarships for employees climbing the career ladder, resulting in a total of 240 participants in the program over four school years. Graduates of the RN program will be required to complete four years of classes and training before receiving a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Long Island University.

"The Nurse Career Ladder program is a clear winwin for the communities served by HHC," said HHC President Alan Aviles. "It will enable low-income residents to enter a well paid and rewarding profession and it will help HHC continue to secure well-trained nurses who are committed to its mission."

In addition to the cost of the program, over $7 million will be spent on the construction and renovation of a new nursing school for the RN program that will be built in the same building that housed the old Kings County Nursing School and dormitory; the LPN program is housed at Goldwater Hospital and has already been renovated. By building and renovating the facilities in which the students learn, the program also addresses the critical need for physical training space. Both the RN and LPN programs will provide students with hands-on learning and training in these state-ofthe art facilities.

"The Long Island University School of Nursing is pleased to be a part of this exciting venture with the Health and Hospitals Corporation," said LIU School of Nursing Dean Dawn Kilts. "A school of nursing at Kings County Medical Center will not only help alleviate the severe shortage of nurses in Brooklyn, but also help to improve the economic future of members of the local community. In addition, the collaboration continues over 50 years of educational exchange between the Kings County Medical Center and the School of Nursing." "This program is another way to prepare our students to have productive and rewarding lives in the 21st Century," said Chancellor Klein. "As licensed practical nurses, our students will enter a shortage profession with a wealth of employment opportunities. Working in our public health care system, they will be serving both their patients and their communities."

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