BELLE GLADE — Palm Beach State College will join Lakeside Medical Center this fall to launch a mentorship program to fill vacancies at the county’s only public hospital.
The partnership, announced this week, will provide students with training opportunities and allow medical center employees to return to the classroom.
“It’s really about continuity,” said LaTanya McNeal, executive dean of PBSC’s Belle Glade campus. “This creates an ongoing blueprint for years to come, to have a real impact on education and labor needs in the clearings.”
The program aims to keep PBSC students in school and create a job pipeline that will retain Lakeside staff, after years of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting operations at both facilities.
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Lakeside Medical Center on Hooker Highway serves rural communities near Lake Okeechobee where most residents work in the service and agricultural sectors, two industries the pandemic shutdowns have disproportionately affected.
This fall semester, five PBSC students will visit the hospital for a day and be matched with a doctor, nurse, or administrator who will help them design a professional plan to secure employment after graduation.
“We will be able to cultivate residents here,” said Janet Moreland, the hospital’s associate vice president. “If we give them a platform, they can learn different skill sets that will take them in a direction that they might be interested in.”
Students will have the choice of going into the medical side of nursing, pharmacy, phlebotomy, and respiratory service, or administrative roles in information technology and business services. They will be offered certifications, internships and the opportunity to do clinical rotations at the medical center.
But, says Moreland, the partnership will also benefit Lakeside employees.
She says this will encourage staff to use the medical center’s tuition reimbursement policy to enroll in courses at PBSC that will help them advance their leadership skills and training.
2 women, 1 goal: the partnership started with a conversation
It all started with a conversation Moreland had with McNeal in 2020, it was the first summer of the pandemic.
Moreland recalls the hospital being overcrowded with patients struggling to breathe or hanging on to ventilators. Then come the resignations and retirements of overworked hospital workers.
During remote course semesters, McNeal says, she saw more students miss classes or drop out because they were facing medical and financial hardship. Some said they didn’t even think they would find a job after graduating.
“But what can we do?” they remember wondering. They decided to formalize a relationship between the two institutions.
Two years later, the agreement will ensure the commitment of the two intuitions for the next five years.
It includes monthly information sessions, job fairs, mentorships, and career seminars at Lakeside and PBSC campuses.
“Recruiting healthcare professionals who provide direct patient care is an ongoing challenge in healthcare,” said Darcy J. Davis, CEO of Palm Beach County Healthcare District, which owns and operates Lakeside.
“To help address this challenge at the local level, the Health Care District is pleased to partner with the Belle Glade Campus of Palm Beach State College to create an academic pathway for students that leads to a rewarding health care profession and benefits also to our staff, patients and the entire Glades Region.”
Valentina Palm covers Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee and other western Palm Beach County communities for The Palm Beach Post. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValenPalmB.