CNA Scholarship Program Fills Much-Needed Positions

Emily Joseph, a certified nursing assistant graduated from the program in spring 2019 and is currently employed at ThedaCare.

January 10, 2020

ThedaCare Family of Foundations Gives Major Boost to Program

APPLETON, Wis. – It’s no secret that healthcare jobs are in high demand in the current job market, with various positions available. ThedaCare has found a way to successfully fill its certified nursing assistant openings, through a unique partnership with Fox Valley Technical College and the ThedaCare Family of Foundations. In fall 2018, ThedaCare leaders began looking at ways they could expand the group of CNA candidates who would potentially fill jobs within the system.

“Typically, the pool of people we draw from for CNA positions are nursing students,” said Sara Bell, the ThedaCare Director of Clinical Training & Education. “What we find is that people come in and work as a CNA, sometimes for a relatively short period of time, before they get into school and graduate. So, we were looking to increase the number of candidates we would have for the CNA openings. We also wanted to look at opportunities for extending the CNA’s time with ThedaCare, creating some stability for our team members.”

ThedaCare contacted Fox Valley Technical College. The two organizations have a longstanding, tightly-aligned partnership for academic curriculum, instructors and certification. Bell explained that leaders discussed how to create a Certified Nursing Assistant program that would be specific for the organization. What they came up with was a CNA Scholarship Program offered in partnership with FVTC at no cost to selected candidates. ThedaCare Family of Foundations pays for the CNA course, as well as the examination fee.

“Oftentimes it’s difficult for people to change the kind of work they’re doing because of the financial investment that’s required of them to make that change and get a certification,” explained Bell. “There has historically been an untapped pool of people that might desire to be in a role like this and would exceed expectations and be successful in this kind of role, if they were given the opportunity to do so.”

Upon successful completion of the course and CNA certification exam, candidates will be eligible for part-time or full-time employment with ThedaCare at one of the following ThedaCare post-acute facilities: Peabody Manor, Juliette Manor, The Heritage or Cherry Meadows. Program graduates are asked to commit to a minimum of one year of employment at their assigned post. The six-week course is offered every quarter and is open to current ThedaCare employees, as well as external candidates.

Bell said that the Foundation has been instrumental in helping pay students’ tuition and certification exam fee.

“Their assistance in helping people change career paths without needing to take on the additional financial burden is tremendous,” she said. “By asking them to remain in the position for at least a year, it’s helpful to us also, providing constancy within our organization.”

“Our donors understand the necessity of a compassionate and well-educated care team, particularly for our elderly residents and patients,” said Erin Tyink, Regional Development Director for ThedaCare Family of Foundations. “They build deep and meaningful relationships with their daily caregivers, so consistency is crucial. We were happy to support students beginning their healthcare career while enhancing the care we provide.”

Many colleges or universities require students to work or become certified as a nursing assistant while they’re in nursing school.

“What we find is by the time they’re actually able to do that in their program, sometimes it’s only a semester or two before they graduate,” said Bell. “It’s great in that they can get that experience and begin to develop professional skills, but then they’re moving on into another role. By finding people that we can support financially while moving into a nursing assistant position and then have them remain in that role for a longer period of time is really the best of both worlds.” 

Emily Joseph, a certified nursing assistant graduated from the program in spring 2019 and has enjoyed the positive experience. She explained that she had considered becoming a nursing assistant for some time. Her husband was in the military and their family was living in California where she was attending nursing school.

“Before moving back to Wisconsin, I didn’t have enough time to finish the program,” she said. “When I returned, I knew I wanted to take my CNA class because that’s the first step to nursing school.”

Joseph said choosing the ThedaCare CNA Scholarship program was an easy decision for her because it came along at just the right time. She explained the scholarship from the ThedaCare Family of Foundations donors helped her afford school right away, as opposed to delaying her entry into the program.

Since the program began in 2019, more than 30 CNAs have completed the program, 25 of whom are working at ThedaCare.

“In April 2019, we had quite a few open positions at Peabody Manor,” said Krista Zaddack, RN, Director of Nursing at Peabody Manor. “Since we started this program the number has significantly decreased. So much so that when we were looking at this next year, we had to talk about the possibility of what we’d do if we didn’t have positions at this campus. We’re looking at how we could use the graduates elsewhere in the ThedaCare system.”

For more information about the CNA program at ThedaCare, please contact Human Resources at 920.830.5800 or visit

To help support continued financial needs, you can make a gift online at or send contributions to ThedaCare Family of Foundations, 1818 N. Meade Street, Appleton, WI 54911.