Why We Launched an Apprenticeship Program at Spring Creek Inn Memory Care

By Carol Scott, Director of Resident Services

I am excited to announce that Spring Creek Inn Memory Care has recently launched an innovative, but well-practiced, training program that will enable Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) candidates to earn their industry recognized certification while taking home a paycheck.

Through a partnership with HealthCARE MT and the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, we have implemented an apprenticeship training program that will enable our business to train our workforce with the “hard” technical skills they need to be a part of the healthcare industry, but also the “soft” interpersonal skills our residents count on in our community. For us, this type of focused training matches perfectly with our business’s needs.

Apprenticeship is the oldest known form of skills training. By matching an apprentice with a seasoned mentor in supervised on-the-job training, along with online coursework, Spring Creek Inn will be able to teach our CNA candidates the expertise and community culture critical for assisting our residents. In our case, Miles City Community College will be providing the on-line coursework component and college credits for our program.

Although there are many reasons Spring Creek Inn chose to take this path for educating our next generation of workers, including worker retention, aligning of expectations with a specific job, and allowing us to invest in our staff, one significant reason stands out for us. We (and many in the healthcare industry) are struggling to find enough qualified workers to address Montana’s aging population in our medical facilities throughout the state. According to the projections from the Department of Labor & Industry, our state will be adding about 1,300 jobs each year for the next decade through the year 2020. An apprenticeship program is a creative solution to meet Montana’s workforce shortage.

If we want to be able to provide the healthcare needed to keep Montanans healthy and care for those who are ill, we need to have the trained medical staff available in rural and urban areas of the state. Implementing apprenticeship programs will help the state meet these needs.

One aspect of our program I want to highlight is how we teach the necessary soft skills our CNA candidates require. It is easy to explain the hard skills we’ll be instilling in our apprentices because they include the tasks we are all familiar with when we go to a healthcare facility, including blood pressure measurements, taking height and weight, and drawing blood. Explaining soft skills is different.

From the day we opened our doors in 1958, Spring Creek Inn has prided ourselves on the bedside manner we provide to our residents and their families. The relationship between our staff and community members is special and means a great deal to the caregivers who work here. Because our CNA apprentices work in one-on-one with their mentors, they are able to learn these caring skills required when caring for a resident.

What we have learned over the years is that sometimes the best medicine isn’t a Tylenol, rather a kind word or holding someone’s hand during a difficult period. This knowledge doesn’t come out of books, but from someone who has been in the same situation.
Working with HealthCARE MT and the Department of Labor & Industry staff has made the process of launching our apprenticeship program run smoothly from inception to implementation. The support we have had every step of the way has been invaluable when designing our training curriculum.

As we take the next steps with our apprenticeship training strategy, we strongly encourage other members of the healthcare industry to take a closer look at apprenticeship as they are developing their workforce pipeline. We are confident in the success of our program at Spring Creek Inn Memory Care and are happy to speak with others about the steps we’ve taken to build our apprenticeship program.