Hillcrest Healthcare’s partnership with South College offers career advancement for employees

Hillcrest Healthcare, which operates three skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care communities in Knoxville, has partnered with South College to offer tuition reimbursement for employees and their dependents who are interested in pursuing a degree in healthcare.

South College, West campus

Funded by Hillcrest Healthcare and a generous institutional grant provided by South College, the reimbursement covers the cost of tuition for the licensed practical nurse (LPN) program. In addition to the reimbursement, South College application fees are waived, and the grant remains in effect as long as the student maintains eligibility.

Tisha Dugger joined Hillcrest Healthcare in 2019 as a housekeeper and worked her way up to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the West Hills community. When her colleagues recommended that she enroll in the LPN program, Dugger knew she did not want to miss the opportunity to expand her healthcare knowledge.

“I am grateful that I have the opportunity to move further up in my field,” Dugger said. “I love my residents and the people I work with. They are good at working with my schedule and letting me pursue my career goals.”

Dugger just began her second quarter of classes that will last for 11 weeks. The program continues until December 2022 when Dugger will receive her certificate.

“A typical week means attending class Monday through Thursday after work,” she said. “It is very fast-paced, but I have no complaints because I know it will be worth it in the end.”

Hillcrest Healthcare employees must complete six months of work to be eligible to enroll. Employees do not need medical training but must have a high school diploma or GED.

“Our partnership with South College is one of the many employee development programs Hillcrest Healthcare offers to encourage and support training and career growth,” said Doug Bryant, director of human resources. “Since the program began in 2021, we have had four staff members enroll with more scheduled for the next quarter.”

The average cost of tuition for LPN programs is approximately $10,000 to $15,000 nationally. Many states require a combination of both classroom and clinical hours to become state licensed as a practical nurse. South College’s LPN program can be completed in as little as 44 weeks. The college offers a range of student-focused perspectives, including hands-on experience in the lab and clinical experiences at various healthcare facilities.

“A partnership with Hillcrest Healthcare to produce the next generation of practical nurses is beneficial for our community,” South College Chancellor Stephen A. South said. “Together we are committed to assisting their employees with professional development. Our faculty has built a reputation for creating a great learning experience. These students will have a chance to work with some great instructors and earn a high-quality education.”

Hillcrest Healthcare also offers additional employee development programs, including free in-house cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications and re-certifications, IV certifications for LPNs, specialized training in programs of distinction, learning partnerships with local health systems, CNA program, free certifications and continuing education.

The healthcare company provides benefits, including paid vacation and sick time, immersive onboarding, industry-leading employer match for 403(b) retirement plan, employee assistance program (EAP), employee discount program and a commitment to provide benefits desired by associates.

With 560 beds and more than 500 employees, Hillcrest Healthcare is the largest provider of skilled nursing care in Knoxville with locations at Beverly Park Place, Island Home and West Hills. The healthcare provider has been serving the community for more than 60 years with dedicated associates who provide rehab and long-term care services.