Workforce Development provides customized ESL training for Chesapeake Regional Medical Center

There is an issue with nurse vacancies in many hospitals in the region. A 5% vacancy rate is common, if not low, but Chesapeake Regional Medical Center (CRMC) realized that there was a way to fill that vacancy using their existing staff.

CRMC had a group of highly qualified medical professionals within their own ranks – a group of people who had been registered nurses in the home countries, who had run units at their previous hospitals, who had a wealth of knowledge and experience. The only problem was they weren’t passing the state boards for nursing. Not because they didn’t know the information, but because of a language barrier.

Aurora Cruz, a registered nurse, works with this group of people at CRMC, most of whom are Filipino. They had come to the hospital seeking out certified nursing assistant (CNA) positions because they weren’t able to pass the Virginia state boards for nursing, despite their backgrounds in the field. Finally, she asked them one day, “What do you need to do to pass this test?” They all agreed – they needed to fine tune their English reading comprehension skills. All of the CNAs had good communication skills in English, but the wording of the questions on the test confused them, and they knew it.

Aurora brought this issue to Heather Murphy, who is in charge of training for nurses at the hospital. Murphy knew that TCC had an ESL department as well as a nursing division, so she was put in contact with TCC WFD who met with the staff at CRMC to discuss the kind of training and the format that would be needed.

A customized class was put together for a group of 15 students that was held every Monday evening for 8 weeks at the hospital. Students could elect whether or not to take the class, but if they did, they were required to sign an agreement that they would test for the state boards by the end of 2013. The students took the class on their own time, after work, and most were able to attend a majority of the sessions. TCC ESL professor Nancy Cuda taught the class that specifically went through the way the Nursing Board state exam questions were worded and how to read them to get the appropriate answer. Again, most of the students had mastery of the actual information from their previous experiences; they were just struggling with how to translate the knowledge into multiple choice and short answer questions.

The student feedback was extremely positive. One students’ course evaluation said “Nancy did an awesome job! I really appreciate all she has done for us. Very accommodating . . . a great asset to your team.” Another student noted that they appreciated all the nursing research Cuda did for the class so that the examples and sessions were specifically geared towards test topics.

After the training was completed, Murphy noted that training like this is good for recruiting as well as retention. “When employees see that you’re investing in them and you care about them, they’re more likely to stay.” In fact, all the employees who went through the training and pass their boards this year will be given nursing residency or positions. These promotions will double their salary in most cases. A good reason for them to keep their skills, knowledge, and expertise at CRMC.


To find out more about customized training solutions that TCC WFD can provide for your place of business, call Henry Cobb at 757-822-1234 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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