Nursing school can be a challenge and going back to school while working is tough for anyone—especially if that person is doing so while balancing a demanding job in health care. Vidant Health understands this and knows how important it is for employers to support team members who are motivated to advance their career and fulfill their dreams.
Through the HomeGrown Program at Vidant Medical Center, Vidant team members can find a work-life balance enabling them to go back to school while working 20 hours per week—while still keeping their full salary and benefits. This year’s HomeGrown graduates – Jasmine Hearst and Michelle Smith – said without this incredible program, they would have never had the opportunity to further their education.
“I was a single mom when I started nursing school so I didn’t have the option of not being able to work,” Smith said. “I also knew what I wanted to do. It gave me so many opportunities, and I love my job here – I love Vidant. It allowed me to not only get through school but to stay with Vidant.”
Hearst was a secretary in the operating room at Vidant Medical Center prior to her transition to the Cardiovascular Intervention Unit in her new role as a nurse. Her interest in becoming a nurse started after team members encouraged her to stand in on a surgery.
She said after the experience, she knew she would do whatever it took to become a nurse. After hearing about the program, she immediately decided to apply to nursing school and the HomeGrown program to advance her career in health care.
“I could not have done school and made ends meet without the program – so this was just everything for me,” Hearst said.
Michelle Smith, previously a pharmacy technician with Vidant before also accepting her position on the Cardiovascular Intervention Unit, said the support she received from team members helped her work through the many challenges she faced in school.
“It wasn’t easy having to balance work with school, because a lot of our classmates don’t have a job – nursing school is their job,” Smith said. “It was definitely challenging but it was so worth it. Also, having your co-workers encouraging you while you’re doing it, you already have that built-in support system. That was amazing.”
The HomeGrown program has been offered at Vidant for more than 30 years and has helped many team members advance their education while continuing to work with the system. Candidates are selected through a highly-competitive application process. Team members must meet eligibility and go through interviews with executives before being admitted to their program. Upon successfully completing the program, graduates have a two-year commitment to work full-time for Vidant.
“I think this program serves our mission – we’re supporting our team members and succession planning and we’re enabling them to be able to achieve,” Lisa Lassiter, administrator of Vidant’s Career program, said.
Lassiter said she is proud of what the program helps team members accomplish. Not only does it afford team members the opportunity to advance their career and education, their additional training directly supports Vidant’s mission to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina with Vidant.
“You heard both of these ladies say, if it weren’t for this program, neither one of them would be a nurse,” Lassiter said. “We’re in a nursing shortage across the health care industry, so it would be crazy not to support these individuals to go back and be what they desire to be and fill positions that we need to have filled. We’re really proud of them.”
The program is not limited to nursing positions. Lassiter said while there are only certain programs the HomeGrown Program supports, they look for positions there will be a need for in two years and look to fill those with HomeGrown graduates.
Linda Hofler, senior vice president-nurse executive at Vidant Health, spoke to Vidant’s newest nurses during a ceremony celebrating them. She said nursing and nursing school isn’t for everyone, but the commitment shown by Hearst and Smith underscores their dedication to the nursing industry, their Vidant colleagues and the patients and families Vidant serves and demonstrates they are ready to meet any challenge head-on.
“I’m really proud that our organization was able to support you on this journey, but I’m also grateful that each one of you decided to invest,” Hofler said. “I’m grateful that you wanted to be a nurse, that you invested your time, your energy and your talents into doing that.”