Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and Eckerd Living Center help launch nursing careers

By Tom Neal, CEO of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital

If you or a loved one has ever experienced a hospital stay, it’s easy to recognize how important nurses are to every patient’s healing. What is demanded of nurses is extraordinary, from advanced medical expertise to understanding the subtler signs of what patients need, whether that’s a medical necessity like medicine, or simply sensing when they need a listening ear or a hug.  

Many in the nursing field describe their work as a true and urgent calling, or something that it was impossible not to do. I identify with this, as do many in hospital leadership, since scores of us started our careers in healthcare as nurses.

Now nurses are seen in virtually every arena in healthcare. In addition to work at the bedside of patients, nurses hold hospital administrative leadership roles, work educating other nurses, earn credentials to treat patients in specialty areas like geriatrics, emergency nursing, and more. 

Not only do I deeply appreciate the excellent, driven, and compassionate nurses here at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital (HCH) and Eckerd Living Center, but I am also proud that we are recruiting individuals who want to start pursuing a career in nursing and begin their educational journey. At Eckerd Living Center (ELC), we offer a paid-to-learn CNA Training program. We are offering this course two to three times per year and will be recruiting for our next class soon.   

The significant benefits of this six-week-long course include relevant full-time training, Monday through Friday, which for many of our students serves as a springboard to further nursing education. It is a critical entry point for beginning a career in healthcare where the sky is the limit in terms of what direction a person can move toward. Students are paid with benefits as a Patient Safety Attendant, which involves assisting patients with everyday living tasks. 

Students who have earned their high school diploma or a GED are eligible to participate in the training course, and must commit to attend 100% of the classes. At the conclusion of the course, each student is prepared to take the North Carolina Nurse Aide test in order to receive their license. Then, graduates have the opportunity to work at any Mission Health facility as a patient care technician (PCT) and receive a sign-on bonus. 

For those reading this who are interested in this opportunity — or know someone who might be — click HERE.

Programs like this are designed to streamline the process of earning licensure to enter the healthcare field and kickstart your nursing career, which is vitally important in a time when there is a concerning nationwide nursing shortage. The deficit can be traced to multiple challenges, including burnout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing older population in need of care, and rising numbers of nurses retiring, among other factors. 

The life of a nurse is rewarding, challenging, and unquestionably fulfilling — just find a nurse and speak with them about their work. We are lucky to have a stellar corps of nurses at both HCH and ELC. They routinely exhibit loyalty and commitment to their patients, deep and genuine concern for every one of their patients’ comfort and wellness, and a unique humanity. 

Next time you meet a nurse, I urge you to thank them for their dedication and care. Their primary concern, no matter how they are serving you at your routine office visit or even an unanticipated hospital visit, is your wellbeing while in their care and afterward. We are grateful for our nurses’ impact on the overall health of our community.

Tom Neal, RN, MBA, MHA, is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.

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