Kerri Bayer, the chief nurse executive at INTEGRIS Health, says the system is helping people enter the medical profession. Photo provided.

by Bobby Anderson, RN – staff writer

The recent pandemic highlighted several things.
For many, it showed how precarious their job situation really is.
In the healthcare world, it exposed an already glaring need for people to care for others.
That’s why INTEGRIS Health Chief Nurse Executive Kerri Bayer believes the health system’s newest initiative tackles some of those problems head on.
“We are creating a pathway for anyone who is interested in working in healthcare to get their foot in the door,” Bayer said of the system’s new Health University. “If you are recently unemployed or work in any industry and just kind of want to know what the healthcare world is about, we’re making it very easy for those community members to come in and be employed. The health system will pay for employees to become a certified nursing assistant and orient to the hospital setting.”
INTEGRIS Health University, powered by INTEGRIS Health and Oklahoma Christian University, is the result of an innovative academic partnership designed to increase the available pipeline of nurses.
There has been a nursing shortage in the United States, including Oklahoma, for many years – long before the existence of COVID-19.
One thing the pandemic painfully brought to light, is that nurses are the backbone of the medical profession and we desperately need more of them.
INTEGRIS Health University creates flexibility for candidates by allowing them to work in a hospital setting while receiving their necessary credits. It uses a transformational nursing education model that is moving away from traditional education to a more blended approach with hands-on learning and online instruction.
“It’s hard for people who have to still maintain a job and so they’ve created this curriculum that has been approved by the Board of Nursing to be able to do this online and we’re augmenting that with a clinical experience within the hospital,” Bayer said. “We’re helping you maintain your employment, get a paycheck and … ultimately once you go through the curriculum and have that clinical experience you can be employed at INTEGRIS Health and have a nursing job.”
The Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) to Registered Nurse (RN) program is open to CNAs and non-CNAs alike, meaning you do not have to be a CNA to participate. In fact, if a candidate is not already a CNA, INTEGRIS Health will pay for that candidate to become one through partnerships with several different vocational schools.
“INTEGRIS Health is eager to partner with academic institutions across the state to begin strategically transforming the future of nursing for Oklahoma,” Bayer said. “It is through intentional effort that we will begin establishing pathways into the most noble and trusted profession of nursing in a way that aligns with student needs of today.”
Bayer saw the headlines during the pandemic of people being laid off.
“I feel like during the pandemic it highlighted the amazing opportunity and the amazing work our healthcare providers (were doing). They’re in this position to really make a huge difference and I hope it’s been something that has been recognized and maybe appealing to some.
“The pandemic has created a situation where now we can help support you and get your feet under you, get you into healthcare, get you employed and provide you with an incredible profession.”
Oklahoma is ranked No. 46 per capita in terms of the nursing shortage.
“We are not only committed to growing the nursing workforce, but to ensuring life-long success for our nurses,” she said.
Bayer earned her Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Bayer has more than 20 years of INTEGRIS Health nursing experience. Her background includes front-line nursing in intensive care, regulatory compliance, quality, safety, nursing education and many clinical leadership roles within INTEGRIS Health. Bayer is a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.
She stresses the program is intended for both recent high school graduates and adults. Each student will perform delegated direct patient care activities to an assigned group of patients, under the supervision of a Registered Nurse.
“And if for some reason nursing is not it we will have an avenue to connect you with other specialties within healthcare,” Bayer said. “I don’t think people realize within a hospital we have so many opportunities both within healthcare but also on the administration side, finance, informatics and IT – there’s so much within the world of healthcare.
“If (nursing) isn’t your thing we can get you plugged in and get you started there.”


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