The Eastern Colorado Bank located in Cheyenne Wells has formed a collaborative effort with the Prairie View Education Assistance Program, a 501c3 group that supports training and educational opportunities for workers at the Keefe Memorial Hospital. The collaboration, dubbed “Giving Back—Looking Forward,” is offering a nursing education/job training opportunity to their first recipient, Tanaia Hansen, a 2015 Eads High School graduate and now a Keefe Memorial employee.
Greg Weed, CEO of the Eastern Colorado Bank said in a recent interview with the Independent, “This is a scholarship-job training program. We wanted to find quality area graduates who are interested in working in rural healthcare and want to return or remain in the area. In exchange for paying for three years of nursing school to become a Registered Nurse (RN) at Lamar Community College, Tanaia has agreed to work, earning a fair salary, at Keefe Memorial Hospital as an RN for three years. At the end of the three=year commitment, she can decide to stay or take the experience she has garnered and move on to another hospital. Of course, the point of this program is that we hope she stays for the long term and makes Cheyenne Wells or the area her home.”
Weed goes on to explain the severe difficulties rural hospitals have in recruiting and maintaining nurses and other highly trained medical professionals. “In order to receive the years of training required, the kids come out of college with huge financial debt, and they immediately receive offers to work in the city hospitals at a much higher salary than we can pay out here in rural Colorado. Even if they want to stay in their community and around their family, they often times feel they must take the high-paying job in order to pay off that debt. If we can recruit our own young people who have shown interest in becoming a health care professional, we can get them through college with no debt and a guaranteed job at the other end.”
Weed adds, “In the long run, growing our health professionals locally saves us a fortune on not having to bring in so many traveling nurses. And the very best part is that if these young people stay, they may settle down with a family and contribute in numerous ways to the community.”
To help jump start the “Giving Back, Looking Forward” program, ECB awarded the Prairie View Education Assistance Program a $5,000 job training grant. The non-profit was established more than 25 years ago with the expressed purpose of recruiting doctors to live and work in Cheyenne Wells. The fund has been useful for many years and is well-established as each year the Program holds a fundraiser and also receives generous donations from locals interested in maintaining a quality health facility in the community.
Hansen is the first recipient to be chosen to go into the program that will pay for the cost of education for three years. The main part of the funding for Hansen’s education comes from a non-interest-bearing loan at Eastern Colorado Bank that will be considered paid in full at the end of Hansen’s education and then successful three-year stint at Keefe Memorial Hospital. If Hansen should decide to move before the end of her three-year commitment or leave LCC’s program, she has to pay the loan back.
For her part, Hansen had nothing but positive and complimentary things to say about working at Keefe Memorial Hospital. “I love the people here and the faculty are all so helpful and care about my success. Signing up for this commitment was a no-brainer for me.”
Since graduating from high school, Hansen has worked at the Prairie View Clinic and has learned a great deal from her co-workers. Enough so, that she has decided to commit her career to becoming a nurse. While she is taking courses, the management at the clinic will adjust her work schedule around her educational requirements.
“I really love the hospital bosses. They are already planning to work around my class and homework schedule, have promised help with any of the curriculum questions I might have, and the co-workers are so kind for working around my schedule.”
Hansen begins her journey towards becoming a Registered Nurse this coming semester. The money is in place, the support system is ready to help, and Hansen understands that she has been gifted a life-changing opportunity to not only train to become a professional, but to also be debt-free coming out of college and have a well-paying job waiting for her. And the bonus—she has the flexibility to live in a place she has always loved.
Hansen is obviously a big winner in this agreement, but Keefe Memorial Hospital and the Eastern Colorado Bank are banking that their investments in Hansen make them big winners too.