Diane Campbell, educator, at far left, with Aaliyah McCatty, Camila Cardosa De Pina, Makayla Rodriguez and Jamyla Draughn

When Rakiah Harrison-Corgain attended nursing school a few years ago, she was uncertain that the profession was the right fit for her. But after recently serving as a caretaker for her grandmother, she had a change of heart and felt the call to nursing.

“I rediscovered my love for health care, the medical field and just taking care of people in general,” she said.

With her sights set on working at a hospital, she discovered the new patient care associate (PCA) training program offered at the Brigham. The initiative is part of a system-wide effort to help recruit, train and onboard highly qualified applicants for the crucial PCA role amid staffing shortages.

The Brigham program, which began in July, provided in-lab training at the Center for Nursing Excellence and unit-based clinical skills training. Graduates of the program are hired into PCA roles on inpatient units and receive additional unit-based orientation.

“Participants learned a wide variety of skills, including patient transfer and safe patient handling, feeding, cleaning and hygiene, and basic first aid and emergency care,” said Peter Kirby, DNP, RN, NPD-BC, professional development manager. “The feedback we received on students’ evaluations was positive. They enjoyed the mixture of didactic and skills.”

Camila Cardoso De Pina, Jamyla Draughn and Laetitia Depestre

Pamela Linzer, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, associate chief nursing officer for Medicine and the Center for Nursing Excellence, thanked the Center for Nursing Excellence team for their efforts to develop a robust training program.  “As we face staffing shortages nationally, programs like this one help us to ensure that we are able to continue recruiting the best staff to support our patients and their loved ones,” she said.

The PCA role is critical to patient care and meeting patients’ needs. For some, the role provides valuable clinical experience on the path to a career in nursing or other clinical positions.

Building Confidence with Hands-on Learning

Nick Diamond, a former unit coordinator at the Brigham, was among the 11 inaugural graduates of the program.

“The PCA training program provided us with a solid base of knowledge in terms of patient care,” said Diamond, who recently began working as a PCA on Thoracic Intermediate Care, Braunwald Tower 11ABD. “The program gave me a lot of confidence for my first shift as a PCA on the floor, and I used a lot of the lessons I learned during my first few shifts. I’m sure I will continue to do so.”

Diamond first felt the call to nursing shortly after he graduated from Saint Anselm with a degree in communications in 2020. “During the pandemic, I decided that I wanted to go back to school to pursue a nursing degree,” he said, noting that he applied for a unit coordinator position to gain experience within a hospital first.

Diamond and Harrison-Corgain both appreciated the hands-on learning component of the training program.

“The opportunity to actually practice skills instilled the confidence I needed for my first day on the floor,” said Harrison-Corgain, who recently began as a PCA in Cardiac Surgery on Shapiro 6/7. “In my new role, I am enjoying having conversations with patients. I love being able to laugh with them, and I also like being able to perfect taking vitals and just get better at my role every day.”

Diamond is also settling into his new role. “I’m looking forward to utilizing the lessons I learned from the program and seeing relief and satisfaction from patients when I provide proper care,” he said.

Based on the success of the first session of the PCA training program, the Center for Nursing Excellence will offer it quarterly moving forward, with the next session beginning in October.

“I would definitely recommend this program,” said Harrison-Corgain. “I want to thank everyone who had a hand in putting it together. It has meant a lot to me and is the first step on my journey toward becoming a nurse.”

If you have questions about the program, please email bwhnursingcneoffice@partners.org.

Program graduates and instructors celebrate the completion of the program.