A Novel Program Gives Brooks Rehabilitation CNAs Opportunity for Career Advancement

Press Releases

Mar 27, 2024

A new pilot program with Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) is giving Brooks Rehabilitation’s certified nursing assistants (CNAs) an “in-house” opportunity to advance to licensed practical nurse (LPN).

The nursing shortage in the US has been well documented, and Brooks has not been immune to the gap. Brooks found itself paying a premium to hire nurses from a staffing agency, most of whom had never worked in the rehabilitation specialty. This led Joanne S. Hoertz, RN, MSN, CRRN, Senior Vice President for Nursing and System Chief Nursing Officer at Brooks Rehabilitation, to see if Brooks could take those resources and allocate them toward the development of Brooks’ dedicated employees.

Pamela Lambert, MSN, MBA, RN, CRRN, CHSE, is the Nursing Education & Professional Development Leader at Brooks’ Institute of Higher Learning (IHL). “We knew we had plenty of CNAs who are high performing in the skilled setting and professional at the bedside. They love what they do. We asked them if they had ever thought of becoming nurses, and the resounding answer was ‘Yes.’”

For many of the CNAs, nursing school had been out of the question – they didn’t have financial stability nor resources, and many nursing schools want full-time students and don’t offer flexibility around healthcare work schedules. The opportunity to advance in the nursing field just didn’t exist for them.

nursing students sitting in a board room at Brooks Rehabilitation training to become LPNs.

Hoertz and Lambert connected with FSCJ, which offers a Practical Nursing (PN) Career Certificate Program with eligibility to take the standardized exam for licensed practical nurse (LPN).

Together, Brooks and FSCJ created a pilot program in which:

  • Eleven Brooks Rehabilitation CNAs started as a cohort group.
  • FSCJ instructors teach at Brooks for an eight-hour class day on Tuesdays, a four-hour class day on Thursdays, and clinical rotation on Saturdays
  • Tuition is covered by Brooks Rehabilitation
  • Additional tutoring and test prep is offered through the IHL
  • Laptops, scrubs and supplies were provided to all students by Brooks Rehabilitation
  • Because of the CNAs’ work experience, some basic, foundational class hours were accounted for, shortening the program completion time

The first cohort group will graduate in summer 2024 and will then take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to become LPNs. To date all have passed their coursework and standardized tests. Hoertz and Lambert are currently interviewing candidates for the next cohort. They received more than 40 applications for the 12 spots.

“We are pleased to partner with Brooks Rehabilitation in this innovative solution that not only helps solve the nursing shortage, but also elevates the level of care offered to our community by equipping compassionate professionals with a track record of success in caregiving,” said FSCJ President John Avendano, Ph.D. “FSCJ is grateful for this opportunity to walk alongside these future nurses in their educational journey.”

Lambert said, “We’ve had such a great response to the pilot program. The flexibility was appealing. If the CNA was coming to work, that individual came for class instead. It was a solution originally to our staffing issues and concerns, however, it’s turning into something much more than that. We’re showing the system, and actually the community, that we can take these intelligent, passionate, caring people and transform them into the next-level professionals they’ve always wanted to be.”


Photo Caption: Brooks’ first CNA cohort in the program attend classes at Brooks Rehabilitation to complete their coursework for the Practical Nurse Certificate from FSCJ.

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