By Jeanni Brosius
North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC) believes good employees are an investment. That’s why NARMC offers a benefit to further team member education through its Employee Tuition Assistance Program.
“We have a wonderful program for our employees,” says Donna Copeland, human resources specialist at NARMC. “It gives them the opportunity to have their tuition covered while working, so it’s possible to finish their degree debt-free. We encourage all employees to advance their careers with additional learning and development.”
The Employee Tuition Assistance Program allows employees who have worked at the hospital for six months or more to be reimbursed up to $10,000 per year for post-secondary education through an accredited college or university, community college or school of nursing.
But there is a catch — the employee/student must maintain at least a “B” average, the education has to fit a current need within the hospital and a commitment must be made to continue working at NARMC for five years after degree completion.
Copeland says NARMC has paid more than $300,000 in tuition for its employees over the past four years.
Skipper McCormick, who earned her master’s degree in May, says the program is very generous. McCormick began her career at NARMC in the obstetrics department as a nurse. After working in the emergency department for eight years, she decided to get her bachelor’s degree.
“I thought, well, a master’s degree only takes two more years, so if they’re willing, I’m willing,” she says with a laugh. “I was working full time in the emergency department, and my supervisor was great with scheduling my hours. She made it a breeze to work, go to school, and still make time with my family.”
McCormick now works as a nurse practitioner at the Family Medicine Clinic in Harrison.
“It made me feel as if the hospital was invested in me, so it made me feel more invested in them,” she says. “We’re mutually invested in each other, and there’s a level of trust and commitment there on both sides.”
Dawn Shoemake, RN, BSN, has also taken advantage of NARMC’s Employee Tuition Assistance Program.
“When I first came to work here, I had my associate’s degree and worked as a registered nurse in the Center for Memory, Mood and Thought,” says Shoemake, who is now the behavioral health nurse manager. “I thought I’d like to go back to school, and I got my bachelors of science in nursing (BSN) on May 15, 2017. And I’m currently in grad school, working to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.”
Hiring the best people for the jobs and giving them experience and education to advance their careers provides NARMC with a more skilled and knowledgeable staff. It also improves employee retention and opportunities to promote from within, which saves the medical center money on recruiting and training new employees. This benefit also helps the hospital recruit quality applicants who are eager to learn and grow.
“We want to show support for those who have been good employees and to encourage their continued growth,” Copeland says. “Not only does it help them, but it helps us for them to advance and fill a need.”
Copeland says when a benefit-eligible employee applies, the needs of the hospital are taken into consideration. By taking a look at its future needs, NARMC can plan for its current employees to become promotable by increasing their education and knowledge.
This tuition-reimbursement benefit has been in place at North Arkansas Regional Medical Center since 2001. More than 50 employees have used it to expand their education and careers.
“You get half the tuition for the semester, and when you complete the semester with acceptable grades, you’re reimbursed the other half,” says Shoemake, who took out a loan to cover her expenses, then paid it off when she was reimbursed by NARMC. That left her debt-free and gainfully employed after completing her college education.
“Providing this benefit improves the quality of care we are able to provide for our patients, which is one of our core values,” Copeland says about the program. “It also makes us a preferred employer because employees know we want to help them become better and grow with them.”
The above article is from NARMC, a custom publication of Vowell, Inc., which also produces Arkansas Money & Politics.