Cooperative Principle #7 Concern for Community

The cooperative business model provides unique advantages to electric co-ops in today’s challenging and shifting energy environment. The Seven Cooperative Principles that we follow provide the framework for the cooperative business model. One of those seven principles, and perhaps our favorite, is “Concern for Community.” Columbia Rural Electric Association (REA) takes its commitment to our communities very seriously. After all, we live, work and play in the communities that we serve. Columbia REA is involved with many programs, projects, and organizations whose mission is to serve the people around us and the places we call home.

Within the mission statement of Providence St. Mary Medical Center are the words, “…steadfast in serving all.”

Over the last 20 months or so, that steadfastness, not to mention the ability to serve all, has been tested by a worldwide health crisis. Contributing to that crisis, the Walla Walla Community College Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program was in danger of being cut due to a lack of enrollment, which would have resulted in a critical CNA shortage for the hospital. Fortunately, Columbia REA was able to fill an immediate and important need by pledging financial support so that the program could continue. Columbia REA has a history of support for Providence St. Mary Medical Center, with previous pledges to the Foundation and the Cancer Center. Through Columbia REA’s help this year, the Providence St. Mary Foundation will be able to provide full scholarships to 10 CNA students.

7 new CNA students began the training program in September, thanks to scholarships provided by Columbia REA.

Real-time Relief

“Without the support of Columbia REA we wouldn’t have been able to support the program this year,” says Amy Watkins, Development Officer/ Interim Foundation Director of the Providence St. Mary Foundation.

“This really has turned into ‘realtime’ support…helping to fill a very necessary need at the hospital right now,” Amy continues. “The great thing about this program is that the CNAs are hired right away. If we didn’t have this support, the need for CNAs would not go away, but we would have a difficult time recruiting for and filling CNA positions.

“It really helps us out because the CNAs already know our hospital, and they can step right into their jobs.”

Linda Jackson, RN, Clinical Manager, Surgical & Inpatient Rehab/ Manager, Administrative Nursing Support, emphasizes how important it is to the entire community to be able to develop this talent.

“What happens when we don’t have new people growing into these positions is that we are competing against each other. We take the CNAs from somewhere else, or they take them from us, and it creates a deficit. And that impacts the level of care everywhere…even things like delaying the discharge of patients,” Linda points out. “Not having to recruit CNAs from other places, and vice-versa, allows us all to take better care of the community as a whole.”

What is a CNA?

“A certified nursing assistant is really the eyes and ears of the care that is provided to that patient. They’re the ones recognizing issues sooner because they’re in those patient rooms more frequently,” explains Melissa Bowe, MSN, RN, CEN, Director of Acute Care Services.

“CNAs basically take a patient load and work in conjunction with the nursing staff, support staff, and physicians. If the nurses had to do all the things that the CNAs do as well as their own workload, we would have a bigger nursing shortage than we already do.” Melissa adds.

The CNA training is split between the hospital, and the Walla Walla Community College classroom.

“Once they get a certain portion of their schooling done, they can register with the state as Registered Nursing Assistants, so they’re able to do a bit more hands-on care with the patients at that point,” notes Linda, who went through the program herself after graduating from Walla Walla High School.

“Once they pass their testing, which includes a ‘hands-on’ and written exam, they can then be certified as CNAs by the state, and hold any CNA position in the hospital.”

“We generally start them in the medical, surgical, and ‘float’ pool,” adds Melissa. “From there, they can grow and cross-train into other areas of the hospital. They can go into the OB, they can go into the ER or the ICU, and it helps them decide where they really fit in best.”

Melissa also notes the added benefit that having this influx of new CNAs will have on existing staff and morale, especially at this time.

“The fact that we had these scholarships to help staff up some of these areas…it really means a lot to the caregivers here that someone was willing to support them like this and put some funding toward areas that really are not the most popular, like the COVID wing or the ICU, but that are essential to supporting the community. The caregivers were thrilled that someone donated the money to make that happen. It was a little spark of joy for these folks who are just kind of making it through to feel like they received support from the community.”

“This is just an incredible investment in an area that is really helpful. We are very grateful.”

The Seven Cooperative Principles

If you would like to learn more about the CNA program, please contact:

Linda Jackson:
Email Linda
(509) 200-3365

Summer Carlton:
Email Summer
(509) 897-8871