By Nancy McVicar
HEALTH WRITER, Sun-Sentinel
Posted December 22 2001
South Floridians who have lost their jobs since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will get free tuition and a job if they are willing to switch careers to become a nurse or train for a related health-care career.
A program announced Friday by Gov. Jeb Bush and HCA, The Healthcare Company, provides financial assistance for qualified men and women who want to become registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, surgical technicians, radiology technologists or certified nursing assistants.
"This program will provide new career paths for many of those affected by Sept. 11, and help bring more health professionals into the workforce," said Jack Bovender, president and CEO of HCA, based in Nashville, Tenn.
Warren May, spokesman for the state Agency for Workforce Innovation, said applicants who successfully complete their training would be guaranteed a job in an HCA hospital or other facility. If they work for a length of time equivalent to their time in school, their student loans will be forgiven, May said.
HCA, formerly Columbia HCA, has 40 hospitals in the state, including 10 in South Florida.
The company is making $1.2 million available to pay for health-related training in six regions nationwide, including South Florida -- Broward, Palm and Miami-Dade counties. The U.S. Department of Labor will provide up to $5 million for the program.
"Any program that will increase the nursing work force is certainly needed," said Willa Fuller, a spokeswoman for the Florida Nurses Association. "It's been done in previous nursing shortages and it works. I went to school that way. My hospital paid my tuition, and then I got another degree the same way."
A Florida Hospital Association survey released in July found nearly 9,000 nursing jobs going unfilled in the state. South Florida's nursing vacancy rate was among the highest at 15.7 percent.
May said some people who lost jobs in the airline or tourism industries, hardest hit since Sept. 11, already have expressed interest.
"We've had several people who were working in the airline industry, who had nursing experience, say they just need to get enough education to get recertified," May said.
"We see this as a real boost to the state. Health care is a dynamic field and offers a lot of opportunity to someone who wants to get into the field and move up the ladder."
For more information, contact the nearest workforce system One-Stop Career Center. Call toll-free 877-872-5627 to locate an office. HCA also has a toll-free number, 800-422-2273 or view HCA's Web site, http://www.hcacares.com,
which allows you to apply on line.
Nancy McVicar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org