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Lee Health is in need of CNA's, so it's turning to students for help

Posted at 7:16 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 19:16:50-05

LEE COUNTY — Lee Health has a need right now for certified nursing assistants, but the hospital system says, no one’s applying due to COVID-19. So the hospital system is now hoping students will fill those roles.

In the last 24 hours, Lee Health hospitals checked in another 27 patients with COVID-19. It’s numbers like those that may be scaring off potential nursing applicants, but on a day when the state of Florida passed a million cases of COVID-19, Lee Health says it’s trying to prepare for more.

“There’s no question that the illness is spreading, and that we have to be prepared for an increase," said Workforce Coordinator Jennifer Thayer.

Thayer said, what the hospital system needs right now are Certified Nursing Assistants, but they’re in short supply.

"Right now, people are not flocking to it because of the fact that, as an entry-level job in healthcare, you hear about that essential worker and that front-line employee that’s working in the face of COVID. That is exactly what these individuals are doing," said Thayer.

“If you were already a Certified Nursing Assistant anywhere, and you came to the state of Florida, you could have a job tomorrow," said Eileen Schoenknecht, the Health Science Coordinator at Lorenzo Walker Technical College in Naples.

Schoenknecht said, just like the hospitals, her applications are dropping too.

“There is no question there is a shortage for CNA’s and for home health aides. COVID has definitely impacted, it’s impacted us as far as our admissions for those programs are down this year as a result," said Schoenknecht.

Schoenknecht said her school has about 10 nursing students right now, and they could soon be asked to go to work. Lee Health said, it hasn’t allowed students into hospitals this year due to COVID-19, but by paying them, they can get around that rule by classifying them as employees.

“It’s a win win. We need the help, but the nurses also gain that critical experience," said Thayer.

Thayer said those students would likely be working directly with COVID-19 patients. She said they are looking to hire at least 20 positions right now.

“Our needs are great, they’re going to continue to be great at the entry-level healthcare system level, and nursing assistants can easily be, the skills can be transferred to the student nurses," said Thayer.

Lee Health said it is hiring the Certified Nursing Assistants as per diem employees, so they won’t have a set schedule, they’ll just work around their classes. The CNA’s will also be given priority status to be hired at Lee Health after they graduate.