Potential solutions for health care worker shortages heading to Charlotte

The Dickson Practical Nursing Program is an 11-month, three-semester diploma program with a class of 18 students studying to be licensed practical nurses.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The nationwide shortage of health care workers is an issue exacerbated by the pandemic.

It’s also a problem locally.

The good news is that there are a few initiatives in the works in Charlotte that could help to provide a long-term solution.

Starting in January 2022, Central Piedmont Community College will offer a fast-track nursing program.

The Dickson Practical Nursing Program is an 11-month, three-semester diploma program with a class of 18 students studying to be licensed practical nurses, or LPNs. The North Carolina Board of Nursing has approved Central Piedmont to establish and offer the program.

LPNs work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN), with employment opportunities found in hospitals; rehabilitation, long-term care, and home health facilities; clinics; and physicians’ offices. LPNs serve an important role in the healthcare delivery system, ensuring quality care for patients.

They assist physicians and RNs in providing critical and essential services, including monitoring patients’ vital signs and supervising nursing assistants and collaborating with other members of the healthcare team.

“The need for more RNs is there, the need for more LPNs is definitely there,” Jeanette Chesire, Associate Dean of Nursing at CPCC, told WBTV.

Chesire says this program will provide flexibility to students who may not have two straight years to devote to a degree.

“There’s also another entry point that an LPN can come back into the program and finish up and become a registered nurse,” she said.

It will allow students interested in nursing to start making money sooner, and help understaffed health care settings.

“The nurses are just having a lot of wear and tear, a lot of them haven’t had days off,” she said. “We need a re-structuring and more nurses.”

According to the press release, The Dickson Foundation of Charlotte awarded Central Piedmont a $500,000 grant to develop a new LPN program at the college to provide students an accelerated path to a meaningful, family-sustaining career in the healthcare industry and address specific employment needs within the Charlotte region’s healthcare sector. The Dickson Practical Nursing Program will enable students to earn their professional credentials in one year, preparing them for employment more quickly. This is especially important, given the median LPN salary is $48,055, which offers a viable economic-mobility pathway for lower-income residents in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

After opening the program with 18 students, Central Piedmont will expand the second class to 24 seats. The college will monitor local needs for LPNs and will adjust the size of future classes to meet demand. The program will be based on the Central Campus.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Dickson Licensed Practical Nursing Program at Central Piedmont can contact Jeanette Cheshire, the college’s associate dean of nursing and nurse aid, at 704.330.6451 or jeanette.cheshire@cpcc.edu.

To learn about all of the sources of financial assistance currently available to Central Piedmont students, see ­cpcc.edu/financial-aid/attend-college-debt-free.

Atrium Health also has big plans in the pipeline.

Earlier this year, it announced the Wake Forest School of Medicine campus opening in midtown Charlotte in 2024.

On Tuesday, Atrium Health CEO Gene Woods and Tom Osha with Wexford Science and Technology, presented a proposal to county commissioners for an Innovation District.

They said the district would create roughly 11,500 jobs in the next 15 years.

“That gives us opportunities to work with the community colleges, with the school system, with others to make sure that this isn’t just PHDs and MDS, but the middle jobs, the technician jobs, are open to all community members,” Osha told commissioners.

As the pandemic continues to put a strain on health care systems, they believe it’s time to look to the future.

“Charlotte is the currently U.S. city without a 4 year medical school, even though health care is one of the largest employment sectors in the region’s economy,” county manager Dena Diorio said.

Construction on the medical school is set to begin next year, with the school opening in 2024.

According to Atrium Health, the Wake Forest School of Medicine is also approved to begin providing instruction in Charlotte in 2022 for years three and four of the medical school curriculum.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Atrium Health told WBTV:

The construction of a second campus of Wake Forest School of Medicine is among the biggest things to happen in Charlotte in years. It has continued to build excitement within the community and promises to reshape the landscape of medical education through innovation, technology and diversity, among others. A key component of the impact of the Wake Forest School of Medicine – Charlotte campus will be the innovation district that will build up around it. This will shift the local industry landscape as we incubate, develop and scale life science businesses into the companies of Charlotte’s future.

We are grateful for the opportunity to present to the commissioners and to the council about how we can shape the future of Charlotte. Atrium Health will be making substantial investment of over $1.1 billion into bringing an innovation district that will be adjacent to the second campus of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Charlotte. The innovation district will be an economic boon for years to come as research and development firms relocate or are created here. The proposed tax increment grant would be a major component of our ability to ensure the necessary infrastructure improvements are in place to support the development, such as water, sewer and traffic flow. And, as a result, we will be able to create and facilitate an improved tax base through site development, new jobs and building affordable housing to help support the growth that the school of medicine and innovation district will bring with it.

Over the next 15 years or so, we expect the innovation district to create roughly 11,500 jobs in and around the district. Innovation jobs typically provide a 15% higher entry level wage, and we expect that 30-40% of the jobs created onsite won’t require a bachelor’s degree, so this project is truly a gateway to opportunity for all.

Discussions surrounding the Innovation District are just beginning.

The county said Atrium is asking for $75 million dollars from the city and county.

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