Marie Suze Camelien of Dorchester started her career in health care as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Hebrew Senior Life (HSL). As anyone who has every spent time in a long-term care facility knows, CNAs are the lynchpin of this critically important and growing segment of our health-care delivery system. Their daily work with patients is extremely demanding, both physically and emotionally,as they strive to create a caring environment for our family members who are recovering from illness, or may be in a facility as their final home. Yet, however much we may value the care they provide for our vulnerable family members, as a society, we don’t typically demonstrate that value in a meaningful way. CNAs work long hours for low pay, and have few opportunities to move up into the more highly compensated health care occupations.
So, when Marie Suze Camelien marched down the aisle, and was pinned as a Licensed Practical Nurse, along with eight of her colleagues, it should come as no surprise, that there were many tears of joy in the Cable Synagogue at Hebrew Senior Life. Becoming a nurse requires a college degree, and for the graduates of this third class of HSL CNAs, that required countless hours of preparation, study, tests, while working and managing family responsibilities.
Juana Garcia, also a CNA, is a member of the HSL Career Development Class, which is helping HSL employees improve their English and academic skills, both to improve their abilities to do their jobs well, and to prepare for further education. She spoke for her twenty-five class-mates when she talked about how seeing the nursing graduates inspires her to work hard so that she too can walk down the aisle and become a nurse in the future.
Creating opportunity like this does not come easily. In fact as several speakers at the graduation noted, it takes a village, and then some. HSL, led by its CEO Len Fishman, is very serious about quality care and opportunities for their employees. They and their supporters have invested thousands of dollars in their workforce development programs, provide release time for their students, transportation to Mass Bay Community College, and un-told amounts of support for the employee/students. They have set a very high bar, and an outstanding example for other major employers in long-term care and beyond. JVS is one of HSL’s education partners, and our instructors and coaches are totally dedicated to the success of the HSL students, and deeply committed to the partnership with HSL. Mass Bay Community College has made numerous adjustments to its programs to make them work for the working adults at HSL. And, of course the families of the graduates are their most important support network. All of this support, investment, hard work, and vision is necessary to create opportunity, and no one involved would doubt that is worth it.