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College helps former restaurant employees transition to health care jobs

Posted on Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The newly-certified nursing assistants celebrated in a graduation ceremony at Chesapeake College on Feb. 28. Left to right, Nicole Thomas, Dr. Donald Kohler, Karen Hill, Chesapeake College Instructor Rosalie Griffiths and Dr. Geraldine Goertzen. 

WYE MILLS - When the H & G Restaurant closed last year, Easton lost a dining institution. But the restaurant´s employees felt like they had lost their livelihoods and futures.

"I was so upset when they told us the restaurant would be closing," said former H&G waitress Nicole Thomas. "I didn´t know what to do next."

Kitchen worker Karen Hill, 31, faced the same fears. A mother of three children, she had worked at H and G for four years.

As the two women and the restaurant´s other displaced workers weighed their options, the new founders of a new business offered a plan. Since the Your Doc´s In was working to transform the restaurant building into a clinic, why not take the same approach with the workers?

"The employees of the H&G came highly recommended. So, we knew that they were high-quality workers. They´ve all proven to be just that," Dr. Geraldine Goertzen said. "The challenge was in finding a way to train them to work in our facility."

With funding help from Maryland Business Works, Chesapeake College offered the solution. .Chesapeake´s Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Training designed a customized medical training program for all interested H&G employees. The new clinic would get trained employees and the displaced workers would get new careers.

"I had never thought about going into the health care field. When this opportunity came up, it was outside of anything I had ever done before, but I knew I´d regret it if I didn´t at least try," said Thomas.

The training group began the customized training at Chesapeake College in early September. The students took six courses: Medical Office Assistant training, the Maryland Board of Nursing approved Nursing Assistant Theory and Clinical courses; the CPR Health Provider - AHA course and the Personal Care Technician Theory and Clinical courses.

Of the nine H&G employees who enrolled in the program, all nine have graduated and are employed with Your Doc´s In.

"I lost a job, but I gained a career," Hill said. "I was nervous when the classes first began, but I quickly saw that I could do this work."

Thomas added, "I´ve learned that I have abilities that I had never imagined before."

Hill had similar feelings about herself and her new job.

"Things have worked out better than I had hoped. I love my job and the people here. I feel like I´m doing something important here and I´m proud. I´m only working this one job, but I´m making for money than I ever have," Hill said. "I have more money, more security and I have more time to spend with my children."

Hill said she now believes she has a career path. With hopes of eventually becoming a registered nurse, Hill said plans to continue taking classes at Chesapeake. Thomas said she will work to become a licensed practical nurse in the future.

The graduates are: Valerie Apple of Ingleside, Gary Ball of Easton, Faye Gadow of Preston, Karen Hill of Easton, Ellen Rindfuss of Cambridge, Tudy Schermerhorn of Princess Anne, Nicole Thomas of Easton, Teresa Wildasen of Easton and Ashley Wilson of Cambridge.

"It was very exciting and rewarding to be able to provide customized training for this group, given that it was such a unique opportunity for the otherwise unemployed staff of the H&G Restaurant. The physicians of Your Doc´s In had the vision to provide this urgent care center and also the compassion to consider the employees´ needs by offering them jobs and re-training in a new career. I have never seen such motivation and enthusiasm on the part of a group of students before," said Karen Bailor, director of allied health continuing education for Chesapeake College.


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