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Investing in YOU: A Profile of Employee Education at Penn Medicine

Across the Health System, over 2,000 employees seize the opportunity each year to advance in their careers at Penn Medicine through the tuition assistance benefit. UPHS provides one of the best tuition programs in the region -– with up to $8,000 per calendar year for full-time employees pursuing a degree program and $4,000 for part-time employees. Employees can take courses at local colleges and universities or, thanks to partnerships with several schools, on-site in the evenings or online. Penn Medicine also invests in its employees through its Professional Development Program which offers financial support to help employees develop and improve skills. (Click here to learn more.)

Read the profiles to learn how some of your coworkers have taken advantage of these opportunities and brought their careers to the next level. 

From CNA to BSN While Working Full Time

Keith-PearsonWhen Keith Pearson received his CNA (clinical nursing assistant) certification 12 years ago, he knew it was only the initial stepping stone on his path as a clinician. “I wanted to be a nurse for a long time,” he said. “My initial passion comes from my grandmother being in and out of the hospital when I was young and seeing the great care she received.” Keith was willing to work hard to turn his dream into reality, but, with only a high school diploma, he wasn’t sure where he needed to begin. While working as a CNA for over 10 years at Pennsylvania Hospital, Keith discovered the degree programs available through Penn Medicine Academy. He took nursing school pre-requisite courses on-site through Community College of Philadelphia. After fulfilling his required classes, he applied at LaSalle University School of Nursing and recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree. As a new hire on the Inpatient Psych Unit at Pennsylvania Hospital, Keith is excited to finally be able to pursue his goals and make his family proud. “My grandmother always told me I had a way of making people feel good on their worst days, so I'm trying to bring that into my new role as a nurse.”

On-site Programs Help You Succeed

Bridget-St-JohnOn-site college courses help employees achieve their personal and professional goals by making it easier to return to school. This was certainly the case for Bridget St. John, Administrative Coordinator in CPUP Administration. Working towards her bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management in Immaculata University’s on-site program, she said that the program’s flexibility was a huge incentive for going back to school. “Taking classes on-site certainly makes getting my degree much more accessible for me. The starting time of 6 pm allows me enough time so that I don’t feel rushed and gets me home at a reasonable hour.”

Since her enrollment in the program, Bridget has taken on more responsibility to support CPUP operations. “The most rewarding part has been taking what I’m learning in class and applying that to my current role, not just for what I may be doing in the future,” she said. At the completion of her program, Bridget is planning to further her education and may take some courses in Information Systems.

New Advanced Critical Care Fellowship 

Another on-site opportunity is the newly created Advanced Practice Critical Care Fellowship Program. This 10-month fellowship is designed to build an internal pipeline of Advanced Practitioners (AP) --including both Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants -- to meet the growing demand of critical care APs for the trauma transition to PPMC. “It takes six months to a year for new graduates from an NP program to be competent in this role. With this program, we will have staff who can hit the ground running,” said Tara Collins, MSN, ACNP, of the Surgical Critical Care Service.  This comprehensive critical care fellowship has tracks and rotations in Trauma/Surgical Critical Care, NeuroCritical Care and Heart and Vascular ICU. Participants also take courses at the University of Pennsylvania. “This fellowship has allowed me to continue my professional development from nurse to nurse practitioner within the same supportive academic health system,” said Karen Donahue, CRNP

Online Studies Equal Flexibility

Jessica-EdingerA new partnership between Penn Medicine Academy and College for America is helping employees earn a college degree in the comfort of their own homes. College for America is an affiliate of Southern New Hampshire University.

For Jessica Edinger, a Patient Service Representative in HUP’s Cardiology Lab, both the education programs and support from her team make Penn Medicine a place she’d like to work for her entire career. “I chose this program because it helps people who have been out of school for a long time get readjusted,” she said. Students complete tasks at a pace that fits their schedule, with the goal of obtaining an associate’s degree in General Studies. CfA is a competency-based program; students succeed by completing real work and competency based online projects, instead of sitting through lectures and exams.

Through the guidance of an appointed learning coach, students are able to set milestones and achieve a degree on a schedule that works for them. College for America has recently been approved to offer Bachelor programs in the fall of 2014. Contact your HR representative to learn more.

On-site Certification for Future Opportunities

Darien-FrippsFor Darien Fripps, making the decision to go back to school and pursue a certification in his field was not his initial intention. “I swore I was not the ‘going back to school’ type,” said Fripps, a Video Coordinator at HUP. Although he was successful in his role, he knew that a certification from an accredited university could help advance his career.

Penn Medicine Academy recently partnered with Peirce College to offer the COMP TIA A+ Certification program on site in the evening. This 18-week, college-credit course prepares students to sit for their A+ certification exam, which covers the maintenance of PCs, mobile devices, laptops and operating systems. Continuing education programs such as this one promote internal networking by connecting employees across the Health System to develop relationships and share best practices. More programs from Peirce College will be coming this fall, including an on-site medical coding certification.

From the Classroom to the Bedside

Paula-GabrielAfter working as a bedside clinician for almost 17 years, Paula Gabriel, Clinical Nurse IV in the Coronary Care Unit at PPMC, was ready to jump into a graduate degree program. But she was anxious after many years outside of a classroom and also needed a flexible program to fit her life as a single mother. The Nursing Education and Faculty Role Master’s program at Drexel University Online seemed to fit the bill.

Using the same rigorous academic standards, online programs are taught by the University's distinguished on-campus faculty. “For the first few weeks, it took me six hours to complete the first online discussion board post! Now I can truly say it’s been a breeze going back to school,” she said. “The program has a lot of tools that really set you up for success.” Paula is now working as the interim nursing educator for her unit and plans on obtaining a role that deals solely with education and training for other nurses. “I’m proud that this was an investment I made in myself.”

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