C3 Fellow Pursues Dream to be a Nurse

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     Tekle in the Christensen Center at Augsburg University

Tekle in the Christensen Center at Augsburg University

For Dawit Tekle, climbing up the “nursing ladder” has been a dream years in the making.  His journey has taken him from Eritrea to Minneapolis, from MCTC to Region’s Hospital, and now, through the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership’s Nursing Initiative, to Augsburg University.

Born in Eritrea, Tekle immigrated with his family from Kenya to the U.S. in 2010.   His family came to Minnesota seeking job opportunities and a new life. “After finishing high school in Africa, there weren’t many opportunities,” reflected Tekle. “Minnesota is definitely a good place for jobs and education.”

Once he had settled in Minnesota, Tekle knew he wanted to be a nurse. “I wanted to have a career,” he stated. “As an RN, you can get a job anywhere and it pays well, but the bottom line is that I just want to help people.”


Inspired and Supported


Tekle was studying for his RN degree at MCTC when he learned about the opportunity to become a Central Corridor College (C3) Fellow.  He recalls the inspiration and power of supportive resources provided to him as a C3 Fellow. “We had workshops once a month,” he recalled.  “And it seemed like they brought people from hospitals nearly every week to tell us what they were looking for.” 

Regions Hospital hired Tekle as a nursing assistant through the C3 Fellows program as he completed his studies at MCTC. Then this summer, important news came his way.


Valuable Email


Tekle received an employee email from Regions announcing CCAP’s new Nursing Initiative and offering financial support to cover nearly two-thirds of the cost of getting his BSN degree. He applied as soon as he read the email and was selected for the program. Tekle is now attending Augsburg University part-time and working full-time as a nurse at Regions. Combined with Regions’ tuition reimbursement program, a grant from the Otto Bremer Trust is supporting an initial cohort of 16 Central Corridor residents to pursue their BSN degrees. Health care partners and the foundation see this nursing initiative as one important step in building health careers pathways that enable greater regional prosperity and equity.


Building a More Diverse Nursing Workforce

Minnesota is currently battling two major workforce challenges: Minnesota employers lack qualified applicants for jobs in high demand, and Minnesota has one of the widest opportunity gaps in the nation for people of color, with a significant portion of the population facing unemployment and underemployment. To tackle these challenges, the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership has developed a career laddering approach to streamline health care workforce pathways.  Scrubs Camps offer high school students a summer camp exposure to a vision of college and a health care career.  The C3 Fellows program offers college students an opportunity to find work in the field of study to gain critical experience. 

The Nursing Initiative supports diverse two-year degree RN nurses from the Central Corridor to earn BSN degrees by providing financial aid and onboarding training.  Fewer persons of color obtain four-year BSN degrees than two-year degrees, yet there is a strong national push from the  Institute of Medicine for hospitals to have at least 80% of their nursing staff to hold BSN degrees by 2020.  More than half of the projected health care job openings in the Central Corridor over the next five years are nursing jobs.   


Better Outcomes for Everyone

Health care employers are eager to invest in these pathways because they know that a more local, diverse and culturally competent workforce will contribute to better health care outcomes. For Dawit Tekle, the sky is the limit. He believes that obtaining his BSN degree will bring him more income and greater job security. 

 “The first thing that hospitals ask when you apply is if you have your BSN degree,” said Tekle. “I’m young -- I have time and motivation to pursue a BSN.  My goal is to finish my BSN and see how it goes, then possibly go on to get a master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner.” 

Envisioning Health Care Careers at Saint Paul College Scrubs Camp

Creating Health Care Career Pathways

Nearly 100 high school students participated in Scrubs Camp at Saint Paul College the last week of July. Conducted in partnership with HealthForce Minnesota, Scrubs Camp was supported by Regions, Fairview, and HealthEast, anchor institution members of the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership (CCAP). These partners share a goal of achieving better local health outcomes, improved educational achievement, and increased household incomes by developing a more diverse, local workforce.


Scrubs Camp Activities: From Stem Cells to Aging Bodies

Throughout the week, students participated in blocks of activities that introduced them to different areas of health care. “I’m starting to think about college and careers and I think Scrubs Camp will help me explore careers in health care and see if it’s something I’d like to do,” said one Scrubs Camp participant.

Day two of the week-long camp saw students rotating through activities including the placebo effect, aging suits, a pathogen outbreak, stem cells, and simulation bus and van.

Sabrina Hemmerling, Pharmacy Technician Instructor at Saint Paul College, taught camp participants about the placebo effect. Students made their own placebo capsules in addition to designing their own drugs.

 In the aging suits block led by Melissa Miller, students were introduced to geriatrics by experiencing the physical effects of aging. Students dressed up in the aging suits and were given everyday tasks such as picking something up off the ground and going up and down the stairs.

"Aging suits was fun,” said a Scrubs Camp participant. “We put on this outfit and it hurt my back and actually made me feel old.”

Using the scientific method, students identified pathogens over a course of activities as part of a case study presented by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Scrubs Camp students learned about all the activities that go on at MDH, from restaurant inspection to infectious disease monitoring. Students also had the opportunity to swab an item of their choice, such as a cell phone or the bottom of their shoe, to see how much bacteria grew within a day.

Randy Daughters from the University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute discussed regenerative medicine, the uses of stem cells, and stem cell research using model organisms. Students learned about the ability of some organisms to regenerate limbs, tails, and even hearts. Using tadpoles, students regenerated tails over the course of about two days. In addition, students engaged in an in-vitro fertilization activity to obtain embryonic stem cells from an African clawed frog.

Dual-degree holder Daughters shared his academic path with students. “You’re here to explore different health care careers,” said Daughters. “At one point I was there. I remember it being fun, but not knowing what I was going to do. Dual degrees are designed to train people to investigate different things that come into the clinic and essentially advance the science, so you’re doing the research and doing the clinical work.”


Training Like a Healthcare Professional

The Ridgewater Simulation Bus (SimLab L1), a mobile lab with high-tech simulation equipment, allowed students to participate in a customized training scenario. SimLab L1 features a mock emergency/patient care room, birthing simulator, pediatric training simulator, and Laerdal SimMan 3G, a state-of-the-art patient simulator that displays neurological and physiological symptoms. In the Children’s Simulation Van, students diagnosed a four-year-old patient with pneumonia and trouble breathing. They experienced what it is like to administer a sedative and paralytic and also inserted a breathing tube. Students also delivered a mannequin baby during a birth simulation.

"The Children’s simulator felt real,” commented one of the Scrubs Camp participants. “It made me want to be an EMT."


Health Care Career Exploration

On the final day of camp, students reflected on how the week’s activities influenced their interest in the medical field. “I’m not sure if I want to work in the healthcare field yet, but I am considering it,”said Parker, a Scrubs Camp participant. “My favorite part of the camp was the ‘Jobs Now’ block because we got to learn about all the careers in healthcare,” said another student.

The variety of blocks helped spark students’ interest in specific medical fields. “I’m not sure if I want to work in health care, but if I were to work in the field, I would want to do stem cell research,” commented camp participant Justin.

Camp participant Sulekha knows she wants to be in the medical field. “I want to be an OBGYN, so I liked getting to deliver a mannequin baby,” said Sulekha.

The “Nursing Skills” block allowed camp participant Hto to gain exposure to the field. “We got to take blood pressure and learn about other things nurses do on the job,” Hto exclaimed.


The Next Generation of Health Care Professionals

The sixth annual Scrubs Camp at Saint Paul College closed with student peer award nominations and closing remarks from camp director Sharon Blomgren. “The 36 employers involved in making this camp a possibility are hopeful that you are going to be their employees in the next five to ten years,” noted Blomgren. Students left camp with more than their certificates of completion. They gained valuable professional connections with local health care employers that, for some students, can serve as a gateway into future health care careers.

Augsburg Scrubs Camp Initiates a Pipeline to Careers in Healthcare


The eighth annual Augsburg Scrubs Camp enjoyed another summer of strong student participation and sparked interest in health care careers. Scrubs Camp is a summer youth camp provided by HealthForce Minnesota that works to connect high school students from underserved populations to visions of college and careers in healthcare. The camp introduces career pathways in healthcare by engaging students in hands-on sessions taught by camp sponsors such as University of Minnesota and Fairview Health Services, and introduces participants to health care professionals.  

Scrubs Camp provides students with access to college labs, classrooms, and facilities, providing students the opportunity to tour a college campus and explore higher education. Connecting students of color to pathways to higher education and careers in healthcare is important to the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership. In 2016, participants at the Augsburg Scrubs Camp were 38% African-American, 23% Asian/Pacific Islander, 20% Caucasian, 14% Hispanic/Latino, 3% mixed race/ethnicity, and 1% other. 


Students Kick off Scrubs Camp at Augsburg College


Augsburg's Scrubs Camp is the second-oldest in Minnesota. This year, approximately 80 students registered for Scrubs Camp at Augsburg. The high school students gathered in Foss Chapel for an opening ceremony. Counselors introduced themselves and students shared the high schools that they attend. Some noted that they were interested in dermatology, others in phlebotomy, and some unsure of what they might want to pursue in health care.

Valerie DeFor, Executive Director of HealthForce, spoke about what to expect during Scrubs Camp. DeFor encouraged students to work on their social interaction skills by meeting new people and making new friends. “In health care, you’ll work with people on the very best day of their life and the worst day of their life - you’ll see both ends of that spectrum,” said DeFor. She noted that the two mottos of Scrubs Camp are to “go with the flow” and “be your best self.”

Throughout the week, students learned about different areas of health care by participating in activity blocks led by local health care professionals. Almost all of these health care professionals were volunteers donating their time. DeFor motivated students to get involved and ask questions. “You’re going to be taught by people working in the field,” noted DeFor. “Take that opportunity. Ask about education, their favorite part of the job, and what a typical day is like.”


A Successful Week


On their final day at camp, students heard from Deon Clark, a nuclear engineer and the current CEO of TCI Solutions, a company dedicated to developing local, diverse talent for companies. Growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Chicago, Clark promised his mother he would get a good education. He joined the Navy and was placed in an 18-month program that helped him earn a Bachelor’s degree and gain the qualifications needed to run a nuclear power plant. By age 19, Clark was running a nuclear aircraft carrier. “It can be hard to succeed without the support of the people around you,” Clark said. “Sometimes you have to ask for it, and then tell them exactly how they can support you.”

President Paul Pribbenow of Augsburg College gave the main address of the Closing Ceremony, dressed in full academic regalia. He spoke about his love of Scrubs Camp, and the importance of the program, especially with the growing need for nurses.

“I love seeing all these enthusiastic young people around campus,” President Pribbenow said. “I’m not a young man, and I’m happy knowing that these are the people who will take care of me when I am too old to do it myself.”

President Pribbenow presented each participant with a diploma, congratulating them on their successful completion of the program. Family and friends looked on as each participant celebrated their successful experience and got a taste of what a college graduation would feel like.