Homegrown HCA program creates opportunities in medicine
Thirteen years ago, Theresa Verhulst started working in the Hennepin Healthcare kitchen, serving food trays to patients. Theresa had known she wanted to be a nurse since high school. She completed the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Century College a few years after she started at Hennepin Healthcare but stayed in the kitchen because it worked with her schedule to take care of her son.
Three years ago, she saw a Hennepin Healthcare Health Care Assistant (HCA) job posting and applied. “I want to take this further and be more involved with patient care,” said Theresa. The role came with on-the-job training and experience through Hennepin Healthcare’s Homegrown HCA Program—a program that provides a career path for people who are interested in the medical field but need to gain experience. Now back on track to nursing, Theresa has three prerequisites left to join the nursing program at her school.
Theresa said the program was a great opportunity to get out of a routine where she felt stuck and get into patient care, where she had an interest. “You could advance further in multiple different areas if you choose to do this program,” she said, “It gives you that foot in the door to progress into something different.”
The Homegrown HCA program gives people experience in an entry-level frontline position as they decide where to land in the medical field. Upon onboarding, for three weeks, team members will go directly into coursework, training in the Simulation Center, shadowing shifts, and clinical shifts with their units.
Another HCA Homegrown participant, Deja Kye, grew up wanting to be just like her mom, a nursing assistant. Deja knew she was interested in healthcare but didn’t know where to start. In 2021, she worked in a jewelry store when she came across the HCA job posting. Six months after starting as an HCA, she got accepted into her school’s nursing program.
Deja graduated in August and started as a nurse on Inpatient Medicine, where she began as an HCA three years ago.
She loves working with patients, seeing their progressions, and being a part of that journey. “I had already applied to my program but wasn’t sure about it. Once I started here as an HCA, I was like, this is right, I want to do this,” said Deja.
Individuals still determining their path in healthcare are welcomed and encouraged to apply. “This is great for anyone truly interested in medicine in any kind of capacity. It doesn’t limit you,” said Melissa Hill, Professional Development Specialist RN, who has been running the program since its start in January 2021. More than 100 people have gone through the program.
“It was a good foot in the door for me to just see if I liked what I was getting into and to see nurses in action,” Deja said. “I think that health care can be scary if you’ve never been in it. I would say to just go for it. It’s rewarding to love it in the end– love what you do.”