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Organization offering tuition-free nursing training begins to see results

Nurse Karen Hayes administers care to a patient in the acute care COVID-19 unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Because of COVID and other reasons, there is a shortage of certified nursing assistants to help people who need assistance in coping with disease and other medical needs. That’s why Chris Hedrick set up a company called Next Step. The idea is to use online learning plus limited classroom teaching to train certified nursing assistants.

The Washington state version of the program began a few weeks ago and Hedrick joined Seattle’s Morning News to give an update on their progress.

“We’ve been trying to fill the huge gap between supply and demand for certified nursing assistants that’s come about not just because of COVID, but because of the aging population that we have in America,” he said.

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“We started the program in Colorado and have rapidly become the biggest supplier of certified nursing assistants there, and we launched a couple of weeks ago in Washington state after getting approved by the Department of Health and have already enrolled over 100 students.”

Hedrick says the program was necessary because the current system wasn’t providing both the needed skills and the needed care.

“The current system has not been supplying nearly enough people with these qualifications, particularly in skilled nursing facilities, senior living communities. And so a lot of patients weren’t getting the care that they really need,” he said.

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“So we wanted to step up and provide both an opportunity for people that wanted to improve their careers, start a health care career, and serve older folks and people that require long-term care.”

The program has seen a high retention rate in Colorado, and Hedrick hopes to do the same in Washington as the students begin to graduate.

“So in Colorado, we’ve actually already placed over 200 students who have graduated from our program, and 98% of them have been accepted into jobs with those long-term care employers, and about 90% of them are still on the job. We think that’s because they have been well prepared to have the skills and the competencies that are required to feel comfortable on the job, but also because we’ve really tried to make sure that they understand what they’re getting themselves into,” he said.

“In Washington state, we just started recruiting and training students, and anybody that’s interested in learning more should go to But we have about 100 people registered, and we expect our first graduates in the next three or four weeks.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM, and on your smart speaker as well. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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