LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — Baptist Health, UK, and Saint Joseph Hospitals are struggling with a critical nursing shortage. A new initiative in Lexington dives straight into health care talent recruitment.

There are several factors driving the nursing shortage. Health care officials primarily say it is due to the pandemic and exhaustion, so the $250,000 grant will hopefully alleviate some of the pressure.

No prior experience in health care is necessary to apply for the training program. It is a fully paid, eight-week course at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. So far, 169 people are interested, but only 30 students will be accepted. After graduation, they will immediately enter the workforce as certified nursing assistants. Ten CNAs will be hired at each hospital.

Hospital officials said this is not just a quick fix to the ongoing nursing shortage.

“It is a start as we all have identified this as a need for all three hospitals,” said Lynette Walker, Human Resources at Baptist Hospital.

Following the training program, every CNA will be assigned to a unit, such as cardiology, radiology, or pediatrics. Most of the time CNAs are who the patients see the most. They chat with patients, feed them, and pour water, among other responsibilities that allow registered nurses to take care of more important tasks.

As helpful as CNAs are, hospital administration hopes this is just a stepping stone.

“It’s our goal that this will be a workforce pipeline that will allow individuals to be introduced into health care,” said Walker. “By introducing them, we are hoping that they will want to have a lifelong career.”

All three hospitals offer tuition reimbursement and other financial assistance, so employees can advance their careers.

If interested, an informational meet and greet are scheduled for May 18 at BCTC.