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Mountain Home’s Big Three partner up to offer MHHS seniors a new LPN program

Mountain Home High School students looking to enter the medical field can rejoice!

Mountain Home High School, Baxter Regional Medical Center, and Arkansas State University – Mountain Home have partnered together to allow MHHS seniors to begin their nursing careers before graduation to meet our community’s ongoing shortage of healthcare providers.

The partnership expands ASUMH’s Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program while providing students with a stipend to complete their coursework. The announcement was attended by leaders from each organization.

“My students are already extremely excited about this program,” said Tenille Rauls, Mountain Home High School’s anatomy and physiology teacher. “In fact, just yesterday, I had a student that has not been the most motivated. And we talked about this program, and it was like a light bulb went on for her, and she immediately started working on her classwork.”

Tenille Rauls discusses the excitement she has seen in her students of MHHS’s new LPN program for senior students. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO.

To sign up for the high school LPN program, students must meet all pre-requisite courses and admission requirements to apply for acceptance into the program. Students will also apply for a Baxter Regional scholarship and participate in a scholarship interview process.

If selected, students will begin the program in the spring semester of their senior year and continue taking courses through the summer and fall. Upon graduation, students will receive the LPN credentials following their high school graduation. Those that participate in the program will be required to work at Baxter Regional for one year after graduation.

While attending classes, students will receive a $500 stipend each month during the 12-month-long program. Students will also receive a laptop computer during their initiation ceremony into the program before the Spring semester of their final high school year.

“Our foundation is going to pledge $600,000 for the initial funding of this program,” said Barney Larry, executive director of the Baxter Regional Hospital Foundation. “We will fund that through our Anderson-Downs scholarship. Ms. Anderson and Ms. Downes were very supportive of our community. They left us a very large endowment some many years ago to train nurses, LPNs, paramedics. And so this is a great way to take care of what their desire was. It’s a perfect fit for us, and we’re so excited to be able to do this.”

Community leaders from the Big Three in Mountain Home came together on Tuesday to announce their partnership in creating a new LPN program for MHHS seniors. If selected, students will participate in a year long program that will see them walk across the graduation stage with their LPN credentials in hand. From left to right: Dr. Jake Long, Tenille Rauls, Barney Larry, Shannon Nachtigal, Ron Peterson, Dr. Robin Meyers, and Dr. Julia Gist. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO.

During the announcement, Shannon Nachtigal, Baxter Regional vice president and chief nursing officer, talked about the 30-year staffing crisis that hit the nursing industry and how COVID-19 has worsened that crisis.

She said that while the pandemic may be over for most, Baxter Regional nurses are now just starting to feel its effects as staffing issues continue to strain the industry. If the program is successful, Nachtigal said the hospital would be seeking to fill 20 LPN positions and 23 RN vacancies.

“Because of the pandemic, we have been left to really think outside of the box,” Nachtigal said. “How can bring nurses back to the bedside? When I came to Baxter Regional 22 years ago from Arkansas Children’s, an LPN trained me. One of the smartest nurses I ever met, and 22 years later, she’s still an LPN and still a good friend of mine. And so, I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to get LPNs back to the bedside.”

Other attendees at the presentation included MHPS Superintendent Dr. Jake Long, BRMC CEO and President Ron Peterson, Dr. Julia Gist, and ASUMH Chancellor Dr. Robin Meyers.

When speaking about the new program, Dr. Long said, “I think this opportunity shows how dedicated we are to providing incredible opportunities for student success while also supporting the workforce needs in our community. This gives students a chance to start their careers without student debt, making great money, and making a difference right here in the place where they were raised. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Dr. Meyers further elaborated, stating, “Baxter Regional is always willing to step in and support our local students. So many successful programs at ASUMH started with a powerful partnership between our organizations, and I have no doubt that this will be a successful initiative as well.”

Peterson rounded out the presentation by saying, “This is a true reflection of the community because it is a working partner. They heard that we had a need, and the high school and college really responded. I think I started talking to Dr. Meyers about this a few months ago and would have never dreamed that this is what would have come of it, but I appreciate that so much.”

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