Supervised by registered nurses, these professionals are increasingly in demand as our population ages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of nursing and home health aides is projected to grow by 18 percent through 2018.
As Regina Malone, R.N. sees it, this demand represents an enormous opportunity for Northsiders looking for work, so in 2009 she opened Lighthouse Training Center at 525 W. Broadway in the Broadway Center in North Minneapolis. Malone has been a Registered Nurse (RN) for more than 30 years and worked in a variety of healthcare settings, including as director of nurses at a nursing home. Since becoming a RN, she's taught licensed practical nurses (LPNs) as well nursing assistant registered (NAR) and home health aides (HHA).
The work that Malone does at Lighthouse Training Center has important outcomes such as providing expertly trained nursing assistants and home health aides to enter a workforce that needs them. As a result, dozens of people each year – many of them Northsiders – gain access to well-paying jobs in a thriving profession.
It is hard to imagine anyone better suited than Malone to train nursing assistants. Aside from being incredibly warm, friendly and caring, she is extremely knowledgeable and experienced. Malone previously taught at Hennepin Tech South, Midwest Career Institute and Smile International Institute before starting up Lighthouse Training Center. Since 2009, Lighthouse has taught an average of 60 students each year and seen them go on to jobs in health care or pursue further nursing education.
As a former director of nursing at a nursing home, Malone knows the importance of training her students to be responsible and team-oriented.
"I know what it's like to hire people and then to be at work and have someone call in to say they won't be here, and then we've only got two staff and someone else has to do their work. So I want to make sure I train dependable people," said Malone.
"I get good results. There's a camaraderie" that arises from being on the Northside, tells Malone.
Lighthouse is the only training center of its kind on the Northside. While schools such as Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) are on a semester schedule and require students to pay up front, full time Lighthouse students finish in 30 days (night students in seven weeks) and all have access to a payment plan.
"We're the type of school that can take in students that aren't sure they can commit to studying for six months or two years," said Malone.
With class size at five students on average, Lighthouse students receive serious individual support and attention.
Additional perks include on-site resume writing and job search assistance. Malone says her students also appreciate that they get both nursing assistant and home health aide training, for one price. Lighthouse is also very accessible. Students can get to Lighthouse via a short, neighborhood walk or on the Number 14 Metropolitan Transit bus line.
In addition to preparing the next generation of nursing assistants, Lighthouse connects people to a well-paying profession in a short amount of time. What is more, a student does not even need a high school diploma to apply. The Minnesota Department of Health only requires applicants to pass a reading test. When they have passed, "They come in and we give them all the material that they need to learn how to take care of a person in their own home or in a nursing home, as well as the tools to work in hospitals or clinics," said Malone. "Once we give them all the materials and skills, then they're tested by the state, and once they pass the test they are ready to be added to the state registry and can go out and find jobs."
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average starting salary for nursing assistants is $25,420 per year, or $12.22 per hour. Malone says her students report they make between $10 and $16 per hour at their first NA or HHA jobs. "Which is really impressive considering you're not even required to have a high school diploma, and you only go to school for 30 days, when other people go to school for years and don't have that kind of starting pay," said Malone. "And I know it's hard work because it's physical, but if you're young and have your vitality, 16 bucks an hour is worth it. And because the field is so open, you have the opportunity to earn double that with time."
Another advantage of the program is that when the student pays out of pocket, federal law requires Medicare and Medicaid certified health care facilities and providers to reimburse nursing assistants for their training, materials, testing and associated mileage after the successful completion of 90 days of work.
Malone has had students that she helped to just pass the reading test, and she recently had two students with bachelor's degrees in biology.
Lighthouse alumni are currently at various assisted living facilities and hospitals in the Metro Area. Because the certificate is transferable across state lines in most cases, some are working outside of Minnesota. Others are studying to becoming LPNs or RNs. Malone notes, "The good thing is that if you want to get into the healthcare field as an RN or LPN, you've already got this (required) course under your belt."
Next month, Lighthouse will begin a partnership with the Minnesota Transitions Schools' Health Care Academy in South Minneapolis (26th Ave S and Lake Street). Malone is also interested, "in seeing if I can start an LPN program and bring it to the Northside. I've got 10 students that would enroll right now."
Lighthouse Training Center is an incredible resource, right here on West Broadway. If you're interested in learning more about taking a class, Malone would love to hear from you.
Lighthouse Training Center