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Participants in YNHHS’ Patient Care Associate/Patient Care Technician Registered Apprenticeship Program include (l-r): Dania Dozier, PCA, Hematology Oncology (NP 11); Ashalie Simpson, PCA, Medicine (EP 7-5); Sarah DeNisco, RN, program mentor; and Angela Baldonado, PCA, Transplantation and Liver unit (WP 9).

YNHHS’ first PCA apprentices are expanding, and sharing, their knowledge and skills


PCA/PCT Apprenticeship Program participants listened as Tammy Petersen, RN, wound ostomy clinician, discussed basic pressure injury prevention techniques. The program enhances clinical, communications and other skills, and provides mentoring for participants. 


PCA/PCT Apprenticeship Program leaders include (l-r): Christine Vanvliet, RN, program manager; Maj Basilio, RN, nursing professional development specialist; Lori Hartel, RN, program mentor; and Sarah DeNisco, RN, program mentor. 

On a recent Thursday morning, 13 patient care associates in Yale New Haven Health System’s Patient Care Associate/Patient Care Technician Registered Apprenticeship Program listened as Tammy Petersen, RN, explained how important they are in preventing one of the biggest safety concerns in any hospital.

“Pressure injuries can become serious safety events,” said Petersen, a wound ostomy clinician. “You spend a lot of time with the patients, so you are our first line of defense in preventing pressure injuries or catching them early.” 

The PCAs at Petersen’s presentation that morning are among more than 200 people who enrolled in the first apprenticeship class. YNHHS launched the program in January with help from the Connecticut Department of Labor and a $10 million U.S. Department of Labor State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity, and Innovation grant. 

The grant focuses on these staff members because of their integral role on the healthcare team. Working under nurse or physician supervision, PCAs/PCTs take vital signs and perform blood draws and other procedures. They interact with and advocate for patients and support them and their families in the healthcare setting. 

“Acute care is complex. This apprenticeship is designed to extend participants’ skills, enhance teamwork and help them provide an exemplary patient experience,” said Judith Hahn, RN, PhD, executive director, YNHH Center for Professional Practice Excellence. “This program helps to not only build skills, but engage participants with confidence. These staff members are often with our patients during their most vulnerable times.”  

The year-long, paid apprenticeship includes monthly seminars on clinical topics and stress-reduction techniques participants have been able to use both at work and at home, said Christine Vanvliet, RN, apprenticeship program manager. The on-the-job training and mentoring by registered nurses have been particularly helpful to participants, she said. 

“The nurse mentors support the apprentices in their professional and personal growth,” she said. “Several of our apprentices have signed up for fall courses at local community colleges, and some are exploring programs that will provide further career growth.”

In addition to building their skills and confidence, the program provides information on the many resources and benefits YNHHS offers employees, including tuition reimbursement, the Employee Assistance Program and various discounts. Another program element is career development, Vanvliet said, noting that YNHHS provides many pathways for career growth and opportunities. 

Olufunke Osisami, a PCA on Hematology/Oncology (NP 11), was recommended for the apprenticeship program, which she said is building on the training she received when she joined the hospital a year ago. 

“The orientation on the floor was helpful, but here I’m getting even more information,” she said. “The classroom is a more relaxing environment for learning.”

“I’m learning a lot with this program,” added Allison Curnan, PCA, Medicine (EP 5-5). “It’s great, because we’re meeting people who work in different areas of the hospital.”

This is Curnan’s first job in a hospital. When she joined YNHH in September 2021, she had a CNA (certified nursing assistant) certificate, which is required for the PCA/PCT Apprenticeship Program.

The apprenticeship draws participants from state- and federally funded training programs in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London, and from the communities surrounding YNHHS hospitals. It will train 1,250 PCAs/PCTs over the next four years. This apprenticeship model can help hospitals throughout the state meet a critical need for healthcare workers, Hahn said. YNHHS hires approximately 400 PCAs/PCTs annually at its Connecticut hospitals, and the demand for these professionals is expected to increase statewide.

The apprenticeship program is benefitting more than the participants and the patients they care for. 

Said Osisami,“I’m always learning something new, and taking information back to the PCAs and nurses on my floor.”