July 26, 2016

EXETER — Gov. Maggie Hassan visited Exeter Hospital Monday morning, applauding a partnership between the administrations of the hospital and Great Bay Community College.

Hassan also urged everyone in attendance to contact their state legislators to ask them to support funding for this partnership and others to come through the state’s Gateway to Work initiative.

“We created the New Hampshire Commission on Health Care Workforce because we understand how important a high-quality, well-trained health care system is to us all,” said Hassan. “The Gateway initiative was announced in February, not just for health care, but to find ways to support and train a reliable workforce here in New Hampshire. I am always hearing from employers that they need to find ways to train the workforce they need.”

Hassan said the Gateway program can be funded by using the reserve fund from the state’s welfare program.

“Since we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, there are reserve funds available,” said Hassan “The Legislature must approve transfer of the funds to the program so I urge you all to contact them and tell them about this program and how important it is to find ways to build a quality workforce.”

Chris Callahan, vice president of human resources for Exeter Hospital, talked about the program the hospital started with GBCC because of a severe shortage of qualified medical assistants.

“I call it a boot camp,” said Callahan. “Instead of a two-year program to get an associate’s degree, we have created a 12-week program. Students spend eight weeks (320 hours) in a classroom at Great Bay, and the next four weeks (160 hours) in a clinical setting. When they complete the course, they are qualified to sit for certification. We already have 28 graduates and six new students started just today.”

Once qualified for the program, Exeter Hospital will pay 60 percent of the tuition cost, with the student responsible for the remaining 40 percent. The student can seek financial aid for their portion. In return, the students agree to make a two-year commitment to Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians.

Currently EH pays the students’ share with no federal or state funding. Callahan said they would love to see it qualify for Gateway initiative funding.

Tiffany Sarcioni of Methuen, Mass is one of the recent graduates. She did clinical experience at Core Orthopedics and is now employed there.

“It’s a really fast-paced program,” said Sarcioni. “We learned a lot. We studied a lot. It was completely worth the challenge. I love what I am doing and feel I have finally found my right place.”

Will Arvelo, president of GBCC, said the school is focused on forming partnerships, with health care, industry and the business communities.

“If there is a good agreement, with both sides working equally, it will be a good partnership,” said Arvelo. “Exeter Hospital has done this and we are very excited about the partnership here.”

Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System in New Hampshire, said the system is one of six in the nation taking part in work-based learning programs.

“I also happen to be on the board of Exeter Hospital,” said Gittell. “I want to see us develop career ladders, where people can continue to train and improve their life and our workforce. A partnership like this one is only as good as the student success. And the student success depends on how we can support them through the program. If they need child care or other support and can provide that, this program could become a model for the state.”

Hassan said she has faith the state is on the right track.

“It is the New Hampshire way,” said Hassan. “We find out about a challenge and we find a way to solve it.”