BILLINGS — St. John's United long-term care facility in Billings is now accepting applications for five newly-created positions in the nurse apprenticeship fellowship program, said Tom Schlotterback, vice president of mission advancement at St. John's Monday.
In June 2020, St. John's signed on its first cohort of five nursing apprentices to the fellowship. The students joined a career field that is expected to see increased demand in future years, with Montana ranking in the top ten for U.S. states with a population 65 years of age or older.
"We have an increasing need for health care professionals all across Montana and we wanted to consider a way that we might do our part to help contribute to providing for our health care professionals who are willing and able to serve," Schlotterback said.
The fellowship program is primarily catered to high school students, but undergraduate students can also apply. The students get a pretty sweet deal on their education. They simultaneously gain on-the-job experience at St. Johns, with their work hours taken off their college tuition. The goal being for the nurses to get their degrees debt-free.
Another plus is that the students don't have any obligation to stay with St. John's upon graduation, they could move to another health care facility if they choose.
"It is no-strings-attached and they are free to go anywhere they want to serve. Part of that is a real missional intent. We’d love to have them serve at St. John’s United for many years into the future, but we really value the partnerships we have all across the region. We would love it if these nurses stayed in Montana and serve," Schlotterback said.
The application period closes on February 1, with interviews scheduled to take place in March.
The fellowship program has partnerships with Montana State University Billings and Miles Community College in Miles City. Schlotterback said Miles Community College has committed to keep four seats open in their nursing program per year to provide opportunities for the St. John's nursing fellows.
“If they’re in high school, they can work here now and then when they’re ready to go off to college they go off to Miles City Community College or it’s possible certainly where these students could live and serve here but also take their course work online and maybe go back and fourth to some degree as is necessary," Schlotterback said.
Recruitment and retainment is often a challenge for the human resources department at St. John's. Human Resources Specialist Sarah Mcfarland said the nursing fellowship is a great tool for recruitment.
"Retainment is a struggle and then recruiting can be a struggle. So this program is great for definitely us here in HR as far as it being a recruitment tool and then the hope with these students continuing through the two to four year degree, it's a great retainment as well," Mcfarland said.
The reason the fellowship was able to add five new positions was because of a few large donations from different sources. The Bruno and Evelyne Betti foundation of Lacey, Washington provided $1 million in April 2020 to get the program up and running. The foundation also issued a challenge donation of $500,000, that required others to match the amount.
Schlotterback said St. John's found enough donors last Thursday, meaning the nurse fellowship will receive an additional $1 million to the endowment fund.
An additional chunk of change came in the form of another challenge grant, this time issued by Stockman Bank worth $50,000. A total of 23 community donors contributed money to bring in another $110,000 to the program.
"We're very grateful to all of our donors, including Stockman Bank most recently with a significant gift. They are not only helping the foundation get this program off the ground, but I would also add that they are really helping develop health care professionals for the future, which is a benefit to all the residents of our great state of Montana," Schlotterback said.
Two donors Schlotterback wanted to highlight were the two major Billings hospitals: Billings Clinic and SCL Health St. Vincent. Schlotterback said the hospitals each donated $100,000 to the nurse fellowship.
For more information on how to apply call St. John's and ask for human resources at 406-655-5600 or visit their web site by clicking here.