February 8, 2005
When Alene Nitzky began part-time work as a certified nurse’s assistant in September, she also began exploring career options in health care.
The 41-year-old Fountain Hills resident will begin an accelerated nursing degree program in March through Scottsdale Community College on the Scottsdale Healthcare Shea hospital campus, where she works.
Nitzky will finish her registered nursing degree in 1 1 /2 years, taking classes in a modular building erected for the collaborative project on the Shea campus.
"They are really addressing the nursing shortage in a positive way, because they’re making it convenient for a person like me to go back to school and to get through," Nitzky said. "This is great because it’s all located in one place and it’s very convenient."
Nitzky is earning her nursing degree as part of Scottsdale Healthcare University — the umbrella name for a group of programs to help company employees further their education. They include tuition assistance for degrees at East Valley universities and colleges, collaborative nursing and management degrees offered on the Scottsdale Healthcare campuses, and programs helping employees finish high school, learn English or expand their knowledge of computers, said Carol Henderson, Scottsdale Healthcare’s vice president of human resources.
Scottsdale Healthcare University is not a degreegranting institution, but is a program that partners with educational institutions that provide instruction toward bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Henderson said.
Currently, more than 950 employees of 4,400 eligible for aid are taking part in the tuition assistance program. Any employee working at least 16 hours a week is eligible for up to $4,800 annually in aid, Henderson said.
And, "for those who are in a degree program that gets them into a health care career or enhances their credentials in a health care career, we pay the tuition upfront," she said.
The tuition aid program began in 2000 as a way for Scottsdale Healthcare to recruit entry-level employees. In 2002, the company began collaborating with Arizona State University to offer nursing classes in a degree program. Later that year, it expanded to include degree programs through Grand Canyon University and the University of Phoenix, which respectively offered bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing.