Hebrew SeniorLife program helps staff reach next level in nursing

Each year since 2006, Hebrew SeniorLife, the large Harvard-affiliated senior care nonprofit, has selected a group of committed nursing assistants to be trained as licensed practical nurses. The latest class will be recognized during a pinning ceremony this evening.

In return for a three-year commitment to work at Hebrew SeniorLife, the program pays for tuition and books and compensates students for much of their time spent in classes. Including the six new graduates, the Burton and Gloria Rose Career Development Program has trained 45 people, many of them immigrants. Among them is Claire LaBeach, 47, originally from Jamaica and now living in Dorchester. I talked with her about the program.

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When did you start working at Hebrew Senior Life?

Years ago, I used to work for an agency (as a per diem nurse’s assistant) there. So I met a few people there and they always encouraged me to come and work for them. I decided in 2009, I wanted a change. ... I wanted to work somewhere where I could further my education and learn more about things within the medical field. I went in for the interview. Lucky for me, I was accepted. One of the things that drew me there was the way they treat their workers and the opportunity that was offered to their workers. My first year there was pretty good. Within a few months, I learned of the LPN program

Why did you want to become a practical nurse?

Nursing was something I always wanted to get into. Before then, I started going to school to do prerequisites toward that. But, financially I wasn’t able to do it on my own. [In the Hebrew Senior Life program,] they pay 100 percent of tuition. They pay for everything. The only thing I had to provide was my shoes and my watch. They pay for tuition at Massachusetts Bay Community College, the Framingham campus. ... It was two years. It was very challenging. They told us it was a very intense program. Luckily I did it. [Wednesday] is our pinning service, and then we have to do the licensing exam.

What will this change mean for your personally and financially?

By myself, I wouldn’t be able to afford it financially at this moment. And the other thing I get out of it—my mother is still in Jamaica. She went through some very trying times. She was very sick. We didn’t think she would be with us now. She’s diabetic. She had surgery to take off her foot. ... This kind of helps me to understand more about her diagnosis and it helps me too to talk to her and to explain to her what’s going on with her body. It really, in the end, really helps me because at one time I was very depressed about what’s going on.

I’m responsible financially for taking care of my mom in Jamaica. That’s going to give me a big boost.

Will your patients attend the pinning ceremony?

Some of my patients will watch it on television. They have a special channel [broadcasting the ceremony from the Hebrew SeniorLife’s synagogue, where the ceremony will take place.] They always have very encouraging words. That make me feels so good.