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GED Prep Program helps Carle Health team members obtain their GED, expand their career path

GED Prep Program helps Carle Health team members obtain their GED, expand their career path
Jennifer Furlong would like to become a certified medical assistant (CMA) and a Carle Health program is helping her attain her goal.

Furlong, a Carle Health Environmental Services (EVS) tech, has passed her General Educational Development (GED) tests, which is the equivalent to attaining her high school diploma. She did so after completing the Carle GED Prep Program, which assists Carle Health team members seeking to obtain their GED/high school equivalency diploma.

Furlong is proud to now be part of the Carle Health CMA in training program.

“Life is always going to happen,” Furlong, 36, advised others considering the program. “You’ll never know until you try.”

Furlong is not alone. Since the program began in August 2021, 38 team members have found success through the program. The next eight-week class begins Aug. 21.

The GED Prep Program is for Carle Health team members who work in positions that don’t require a high school diploma and are seeking to obtain their GED/high school equivalency, Tyisha Jones, Carle Health workforce development specialist, said.

The program also is open to family members of Carle Health team members.

While the program is a Carle Health partnership with Parkland College in Champaign, Workforce Development is working with community colleges to bring the free program to team members in the Bloomington-Normal, Eureka, Peoria/Pekin and Olney areas, Jones said.

“Carle Health believes in supporting and investing in team members’ career growth,” Jones said. “The investment supports the personal and professional development of our team members’ short- and long-term goals and outcomes of overall family success.”

Interested team members work with their departmental leadership for support in participating in the program. Once approved, they work with Jones to discuss challenges, such as transportation and childcare, and resources to help address those challenges.

The program is an eight-week class that meets twice a week. The intention is to prepare team members for the four subjects covered in the GED exams, including language arts, mathematical reasoning, science and social studies. The goal is to offer the class right after work to make it easier for team members. For example, the class that begins on Aug. 21 is 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays at Carle Foundation Hospital (CFH) and 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays online.

The healthcare system typically offers classes each fall, spring and summer semester.

Once ready to take the GED exams, team members meet with Workforce Development to get financial assistance to cover the cost of the exams. Team members who pass all four exams receive a congratulatory gift from Carle Health executive leadership.

Furlong’s job as an EVS tech is to clean physician sleep rooms in Labor and Delivery and Postpartum at CFH and rooms in the residents’ house and Guest House. After working in healthcare for 15 years, since she was 21, she couldn’t advance because she didn’t have her GED.

She left high school when she was 16. Because she works full-time, has five children, six step-children and her fiancé has a disability, it was difficult for her to take a GED prep class.

“It’s hard,” she said of working while taking care of a large family. “You’ve got to keep your faith.”

When she applied for a job at Carle Health in fall 2022, a Human Resources team member informed Furlong of the GED Prep Program. Furlong thought she could make that work because the program held the classes, taught by a Parkland College instructor, at CFH.

Furlong got permission from her supervisor to start her work day earlier and to end it earlier so she could attend the class from 3 to 5 p.m. each Monday at CFH and on-line each Wednesday, beginning Feb. 13. That worked well and she passed each exam.

“The teacher was supportive,” Furlong said. “Tyisha was helpful.”

“I cried like a baby when I got my final results,” Furlong said. She was waiting to pick up one of her children at a bus stop after school as she opened the letter and the bus driver asked her if everything was OK.

“I said ‘It’s a good cry,’” Furlong said. “My 5-year-old said ‘Momma, you passed your test!’ My kids were big supporters.”

Furlong walked across the stage to receive her GED just a couple days after her oldest daughter graduated from high school.

Furlong has been accepted into Carle’s 12-week CMA in training program. Her final day in EVS is Aug. 18. Her first day in the CMA in training program is Aug. 21. After completing the training program, she will take the CMA board exam so she can become a certified CMA.

“It was great,” Furlong said of the program.

Some members of Carle Health leadership also started on their path to career success after attaining their GED.

Avie Pagel, RN, BSN BC, is patient care manager for Carle Rantoul and for the Ambulatory Float Pool. She had wanted to go to nursing school but had only completed the ninth grade so attained her GED at age 28.

She began her career at Carle in 1992 as a health care tech while going to nursing school. She was a nurse on the Orthopedics floor for a year, then transferred to the Ambulatory Float Pool where she worked as a float RN for 18 years in 22 different departments. In 2013, Carle recognized her leadership, naming her the nursing supervisor for the hospital float. In 2015, she became a nurse manager for Carle Rantoul.

What’s her advice for those considering attaining their GED?

“It’s hard but it can be done,” Pagel said. “I was married with two children when I started my journey. I studied and took my GED with only a ninth-grade education, obtained my associate and then my BSN and became a board-certified ambulatory nurse.”

“I would not be where I am today without Carle and all the people that helped me along the way on my journey,” Pagel said.

“Don’t be afraid, embrace it!” Pagel said. “There is a lot of support at Carle for you.”

Each and every employee at Carle Health makes us better and stronger so we can take care of our patients and communities. From clinical to professional to technical careers, our team helps us to change lives. Want to be part of a team that works with purpose and appreciates its employees? Click here.

Categories: Culture of Quality

Tags: careers, development, education, GED, team, workforce