Phoebe named state College and Career Academy Business Partner of Year

Oct. 3—ALBANY — Phoebe Putney Health System's innovative health care work force development partnership with the Albany-based Commodore Conyers College and Career (4C) Academy earned Phoebe recognition as Georgia's 2022 College and Career Academy Business Partner of the Year.

"We rolled up our sleeves and went to work, hand-in-hand with 4C Academy to come up with solutions to difficult work force challenges, and there hasn't been anything 4C hasn't been willing to try," Tracy Suber, Phoebe's vice president of education, said. "The national shortage of nurses is a crisis that's only getting worse, so it's more important now than ever for health care leaders to be at the table with secondary and post-secondary education leaders. We have to start early to get students interested in careers in health care."

4C Academy CEO Chris Hatcher nominated Phoebe for the prestigious honor because of the health system's efforts to build a program that helps 4C students get real-world work experience and puts them on an accelerated path to successful careers in health care.

"Phoebe has been a valued partner of the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy from the start and truly has become a national leader in health care work force development," Hatcher said. "They have invested money, manpower, materials and other resources into 4C to build a sustainable pipeline of nurses to care for the people of southwest Georgia. That investment also gives young students something to strive for, showing them — at an early age — that they don't have to leave home to find meaningful, rewarding and well-paying careers."

Phoebe worked closely with 4C and other education partners to develop the Phoebe Health Science Pathway, which features a specialized curriculum allowing 4C students to begin work as certified nursing assistants at Phoebe while still in high school. They can complete core college courses through dual enrollment at no cost, and — upon their high school graduation — they can go straight into the nursing program at either Albany State University or Albany Technical College.

"Strong business and industry partners like Phoebe are key to the success of Georgia College and Career Academies," Bennett McCumber, Technical College System of Georgia executive director of Secondary Initiatives and College and Career Academies, said. "We were excited that Phoebe was selected by the lieutenant governor's office as the 2022 Business Partner of the Year for the investments and support they are making to help prepare students for careers in health care. On behalf of the Technical College System of Georgia, we would like to congratulate Phoebe on this well-deserved honor."

The Phoebe Health Science Pathway has received national attention, and Gov. Brian Kemp recently allocated $800,000 to replicate the program at college and career academies throughout Georgia.

"We have to be innovative and forward-thinking," Suber said. "To be recognized for leading change, not just in our region but across Georgia, is very rewarding. We aren't just making a difference in our community. We are having an impact statewide, and that's truly amazing."

Last school year, 16 4C Academy students completed CNA clinical rotations at Phoebe, and seven participated in a paid internship program. This school year, 19 are doing clinical rotations and five are working as interns, so far. Currently, 41 10th-grade students at 4C and 42 ninth-graders are in the Phoebe Health Science Pathway pipeline.

"This program has had an immediate impact," Hatcher said. "We begin promoting it to middle-schoolers and their parents, and they get excited about it. It provides outstanding opportunities, and it is making a difference in the lives of our students."

Suber accepted the College and Career Academy Business Partner of the Year Award at Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan's 2022 Business and Education Summit held last week in Gray. She also participated in a panel discussion on health care work force development. On Tuesday, Duncan is scheduled to visit the Phoebe Simulation & Innovation Center, where some of the training for Phoebe Health Science Pathway students takes place.