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.
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.”