Nurse Apprenticeships: How To Get Paid And Trained While Earning Your Degree.
There are plenty of paths that students can take to becoming a licensed RN.
Some students begin their nursing career by earning their LPN at a local community college before moving onto advanced degrees. Others enroll in a Bachelors of Nursing Program that will provide them with a four-year degree and prepare them to take the NCLEX exam, which they must pass in order to practice as a licensed nurse.
However, federal and local governments, along with educational institutions and healthcare facilities, are looking to create yet another path. These different groups are joining forces to provide nursing apprenticeships that allow students to gain hands-on experience and earn money while attending school.
The United States is taking steps to join other countries, including England, to provide nursing apprenticeship programs, in part, to help address the projected nursing shortage.
By allowing students to learn on the job and get paid while they are obtaining their education, the programs hope to attract more students and make nursing degrees accessible to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford the cost of tuition.
While there has been some disagreement about the severity of the projected nursing shortage, the numbers have been unsettling enough for the government to take action and seek new ways to develop qualified nurses to fill positions.
Where are Nursing Apprenticeships Available?
In other countries, the apprenticeship programs provide total on-the-job training without requiring participants to attend university. As students acquire new skills, the move up a structured set of education tiers. Initial versions of nursing apprenticeships in the U.S. follow a different model.
Norton Healthcare in Kentucky is credited with creating the first state accredited nursing apprenticeship in the United States. Nursing students who are in their junior year of college or working towards an Associate’s Degree can apply to the program. Participants shadow nurses and learn skills while also earning competitive wages.
While Kentucky is the only state to officially offer an accredited nursing apprenticeship program, there are other pilot programs in the works around the country.
The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has been developing apprenticeship training models that also incorporate online learning for a hybrid model that offers accelerate learning and allows students to become an RN is less than two years.
The CAEL is using an award from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement pilot programs in Illinois, Maryland, Texas, South Dakota and Washington.
The state of Nevada has also taken steps to implement an apprentice nursing program that has been designed by the state’s board of nursing. Their program allows students to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom in a healthcare environment and be compensated for their time and work.
As students learn new skills in the classroom, they are able to assume more responsibilities at work and progress through a pre-determined set of skills. Once they graduate, they are awarded an Interim Permit, which allows them to practice nursing.
While there are clear benefits for students who participate in apprenticeship programs, hospitals and healthcare facilities also reap rewards. For facilities that are understaffed and have high nurse to patient ratios, apprentices can help fill the gaps and provide vital manpower that is required to monitor and treat patients.
Apprenticeships also provide the opportunity to cultivate future employees and expedite the hiring process since other nursing staff and managers will already be familiar with new graduates.
Apprenticeship Opportunities are Poised to Increase
The development of nursing apprenticeship programs is reflective of a larger labor trend in the United States.
As the cost of education continues to rise and new graduates are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before even landing their first job, apprenticeship programs are emerging as a viable solution across a wide variety of industries.
While their existing nursing apprenticeship programs are scattered across the country and don’t necessarily represent a consistent approach, it is safe to assume that lessons learned from these early programs will be used to inform accreditation policies on a national scale.
If you have been considering a career in nursing, but have been wary of applying because the cost of tuition seems prohibitive, then a nursing apprenticeship may be the best solution.
These programs may not yet be available across the country, certain states do offer options that will allow you to work towards becoming an RN while also being paid. It is an option worth researching, especially since these programs are currently in development. There may be a program opening up near you in the next few months.