Many people dream of a nursing career: a path that can be deeply rewarding. The road to becoming a CNA, LPN, or RN typically means working at a job while also attending courses, and NHC Osage Beach Rehab & Health Care Center is helping men and women do just that. NHC offers employees a tuition reimbursement program to help pay for school.
The Osage Beach center provides longterm care and skilled nursing for rehab patients in the Lake area. They have 80 beds for residents and 24 hour care, said David Sauer, who runs the facility. The center is owned and operated by National HealthCare Corporation, which is the oldest skilled nursing company in the nation, founded in Tennessee in the 1970s.
Through NHC’s unique tuition reimbursement program, students can pay for college while working at the center, Sauer said. Some other companies require participants to sign a contract pledging to work for a certain number of years, in exchange for tuition help. But at NHC Osage Beach, students get up to $1,200 every six months, to cover tuition, for as long as they want to work at the center.
“If you decide, ‘This isn’t for me,’ you can go and work somewhere else and you don’t have to pay any of that money back,” Sauer said. “There’s nothing that’s going to tie you down. If family stuff happens or you need to move or something, you don’t owe us anything.”
The Osage Beach facility currently has one certified nursing assistant (CNA) using the tuition reimbursement program, and Sauer says she is the first employee he knows of—at this center—who has done so. He’d like to see more.
“A lot of our CNAs are single parents and they can’t take the time to go to school,” Sauer said. “Nor can they take the time off of work to not have the same level of pay coming in when they have a family.” NHC even helps aspiring nurses become CNAs, by offering free courses that, once completed (along with 100 hours of clinical training), let a person practice as a CNA in Missouri.
CNAs take care of daily living activities at the center, like clothing, cleaning, nutrition and more. That job is how a person gets their foot in the door, Sauer said. Once they’ve become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), the nurse works more specifically on the medical aspect, providing treatments and medicine to NHC patients and residents.
“Essentially you can become a nurse for free and make money in the process,” Sauer said. “You come in here, take our free class to become a CNA. Once you become a CNA, go to school and we’ll help you pay for that.”
Sauer loves the program, and wishes more aspiring nurses at the Lake knew about it. The Lake area has no shortage of nursing students, with many taking advantage of the nursing programs at State Fair Community College’s (SFCC) Lake campus and Columbia College’s Lake campus, both in Osage Beach. In fact, the Lake has two of the top nursing programs in Missouri: SFCC is #1 and Columbia College - Lake Ozark is #13 (out of 55 programs), according to a 2020 ranking published by RegisteredNursing.org. State Fair’s Nursing Program Director Tara Weber says this fall, 38 nursing students will be in their final semester of their nursing program at the Lake campus. “A large percentage of our nursing students do utilize private tuition assistance,” she confirmed. With the variety of grants and government aid available, along with scholarships like NHC’s, Sauer points out a student could get their nursing education paid for in a matter of a few years.
Two local nursing programs have been named the best in Missouri by RegisteredNursing.org.
Already started your nursing education? NHC Osage Beach even has the ability to help people pay for a previous year of schooling, Sauer said. That’s done on a case-by-case basis, but it’s possible for someone to receive aid if they start working at the center during their second year of school.
Qualified nurses who feel called to the work are in high demand especially this year, Sauer said. While COVID-19’s unique impacts on the elderly population has been challenging for nurses and assistants, residents at communities like NHC have really felt the worst of it, Sauer said. Anxiety and depression rose during the height of the lockdown, as residents were unable to eat in the dining room or see their families. NHC staff had the opportunity to help, care for, and encourage those people in the midst of unprecedented difficulty. With new norms and state guidelines in place, Sauer says there have been hints of normalcy again, and social distancing has allowed some group activities to begin.
The work is a calling, Sauer agrees, but it’s highly rewarding, and for aspiring nurses, NHC is working to help bring the payoff even sooner.
To learn more about working at NHC Osage Beach, visit https://nhccare.com/careers. To inquire about NHC’s tuition reimbursement program, contact David Sauer at 573-348-2225.