Issaquah health care provider offers nursing assistant scholarships

Renton Technical College instructors will teach onsite at Providence Marianwood and followingthe program, the CNAs will sign a one-year contract to work at Providence.

Providence Marianwood in Issaquah has partnered with Renton Technical College (RTC) to offer scholarships for nursing assistants this spring.

The United States is experiencing a shortage of certified nursing assistants (CNA) and the effects are being felt locally too. Maricor Lim, administrator at Providence, said the “continuous turnover” rate for CNAs prompted them to approach RTC with a proposal to train new workers.

Providence will be providing 10 scholarships to students interested in becoming CNAs. RTC will supply the instructors who will teach onsite at Providence during the five-week course, which will allow students to become familiar with the equipment and facility. After completing the course, the CNAs will sign a one-year contract to work at Providence.

Many CNAs are actively studying to become nurses and Providence has programs such as tuition reimbursement and training to help employees continue their careers, Lim said.

There are reasons why attrition is so high among CNAs, however. According to a University of Washington study from 2013, reliable estimates of the number of nursing assistants in the state aren’t available, but the number required is expected to increase as Baby Boomers age. These CNAs’ work in nursing and assisted living facilities include helping patients go to the bathroom, shower and eat. Often CNAs feel they are underpaid, with national average wage hovering around $12 per hour for the profession, which overwhelmingly employs women. Many CNAs are overburdened due to not enough fellow nursing assistants and an influx of patients.

This problem will likely only increase, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the demand for medical assistants will see double digit growth through 2026.

Lim said Providence decided to increase wages for CNAs at their facility and start at a base pay of $15.11 an hour, slightly above Seattle’s minimum wage. Lim emphasized the entry-level nature of the job in the health care industry, but also that the company wants to find ways to keep workers.

“If we do attract the talent, we want to keep them,” she said.

Katherine Hansen, director of college relations for RTC, similarly said CNA status was a good way for people to break into health care. It is a popular program they offer on their campus several times a quarter and has no prerequisite classes necessary to enroll. The college also offers a two-year nursing program.

“It’s a really great opportunity for students that want to get into this career and get into health care,” Hansen said.

Providence held an open house on April 23 for potential applicants to get more information.

Interested applicants can contact Lim at 425.391.2890 or