BELLE GLADE — Palm Beach State College will join Lakeside Medical Center this fall in launching a mentorship program meant to fill vacancies at the county’s only public hospital.
The partnership, announced this week, will give students training opportunities and get employees from the medical center back in the classroom.
“It’s really about continuity,” said LaTanya McNeal, executive dean PBSC’s Belle Glade campus. “It creates an ongoing blueprint for years to come, to really be impactful about the educational and workforce needs in the Glades.”
The program aims to keep PBSC students in school and create an employment pipeline that will keep Lakeside staffed, following years where the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted operations at both institutions.
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Lakeside Medical Center, on Hooker Highway, serves the rural communities near Lake Okeechobee where most residents work in the service and agriculture industries, two industries which the pandemic shutdowns affected disproportionately.
This fall semester, five PBSC students will tour the hospital for a day and get paired with a physician, nurse or administrator who will help them design a professional plan to secure a job after graduation.
“We will be able to cultivate the residents here,” said Janet Moreland, the hospital’s associate vice president. “If we give them a platform, they can learn different skill sets that will move them into a direction they may be interested in.”
Students will have the choice to go into the medical side of nursing, pharmacy, phlebotomy and the respiratory department, or to the administrative roles in information technology and business services. They will be offered certifications, internships and the opportunity to do clinical rotations at the medical center.
But, Moreland says, the partnership also will benefit Lakeside employees.
She says it will encourage staff to use the medical center’s tuition reimbursement policy to enroll in classes at PBSC that will help them advance their skills and leadership training.
2 women, 1 goal: Partnership began with a conversation
It all started with a conversation Moreland had with McNeal in 2020, it was the first summer of the pandemic.
Moreland remembers the hospital overcrowded with patients struggling to breath or hooked to ventilators. Then came the resignations and retirements of overworked hospital staff employees.
During the semesters of remote classes, McNeal says, she saw more students miss lectures or drop out as they faced medical and financial hardships. Some said they didn’t think they would even find a job after graduating.
“But what can we do?” they recall asking each other. They decided to formalize a relationship between both institutions.
Two years later, the agreement will ensure the commitment of both intuitions for the next five years.
It includes monthly information sessions, job fairs, mentorships and career seminars on both the Lakeside and PBSC campuses.
“Recruiting medical professionals who provide direct patient care is an ongoing challenge in health care,” said Darcy J. Davis, CEO of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, which owns and operates Lakeside.
“To help address this challenge locally, the Health Care District is pleased to collaborate with Palm Beach State College’s Belle Glade campus to create an academic pathway for students that leads to a rewarding health care profession and also benefits our staff, patients and the entire Glades region.”
Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and other western communities in Palm Beach County for The Palm Beach Post. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB.