LMP Focus Areas

Stipend Program Helps RN Achieve Her Dream

A "heaven sent" flyer gave Jennifer Chai the key to completing the clinical hours for her speciality without leaving KP

There are times when everybody needs a little help—even those as independent and driven as Jennifer Chai, a registered nurse in Panorama City (Southern California).

Chai had managed for several years to work a full-time job while earning her master's degree. But when it came time for her to start working clinical hours in her specialty, she knew something had to give.

"I was seriously considering leaving Kaiser so that I could pursue my education, but I didn't want to," said Chai, a member of UNAC. "It was a serious dilemma."

Loss of pay loomed

To complete the 500 clinical hours required to become a gerontology clinical nurse specialist, Chai was going to have to work fewer hours, which meant she'd lose one day's pay every week. She would have willingly done the clinical hours on Saturdays and Sundays, but gerontology clinical nurse specialists do not work weekends.

Chai has been with Kaiser Permanente for 11 years and didn't want to leave, so she desperately searched for a way to stay. She transferred from a full-time project manager position to a part-time GI lab staff nurse, but that was not enough. That's when she came across a flyer for the Ben Hudnall Trust Individual Stipend Program.

"That flyer was heaven sent. It saved me," Chai said. "The trust paid for me to be off from work one more day a week. I now have only five more weeks left of clinical hours, and I am on my way to fulfilling my dream of helping the elderly."

Inspiration from an elderly man

Her dream was inspired by a man named Jack, then an 89-year-old resident of an assisted living facility in Calabasas where she volunteered.

The two grew close and she visited him three times a week. At 90, Jack became ill, Chai said, and underwent multiple surgeries. He didn't have many family members in California, so for each time he needed a test or had to have surgery, Chai went with him. Often she was Jack's only visitor.

After Jack died, Chai changed the focus of her master's degree from nurse educator to gerontology.

"I loved Jack, and he made me realize how much I enjoyed bonding with elderly people and that I could do something for them."

Choice of jobs

In May, Chai earned her master of science in nursing and has already been offered several positions.

"It was possible only because of a very significant and timely assistance I received from Workforce Development," Chai said. "Kaiser has been wonderful to me. Soon I will be living my dream, taking care of our aging patients, helping them live healthy, and improving the quality of their lives."

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