First youth RN apprenticeship program in NC begins at Northern Regional Hospital with Surry-Yadkin Works interns

First youth RN apprenticeship program in NC begins at Northern Regional Hospital with Surry-Yadkin Works interns

Thursday, February 11, 2021

DOBSON, N.C. – The first youth apprentice program for registered nurses in North Carolina started with 13 Surry-Yadkin Works interns who began working as employees of Northern Regional Hospital in January. Twelve of the students were hired as certified nursing assistants, and one is employed as a patient care technician.

“This creative apprentice program is consistent with Northern Regional Hospital’s mission and philosophy of investing in people and our community,” said Chris A. Lumsden, president and chief executive officer of Northern Regional Hospital. “Collaborating with our local public school systems and Surry Community College embraces our approach to ‘growing your own’ talent to address a nursing shortage while also helping students achieve their professional aspirations. If we invest in people, they will in return invest in us.”

This special opportunity is a part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program and the state’s ApprenticeshipNC program through the NC Community College System that combines a paid work-based learning experience with classroom academics leading to a national certification. These students have the opportunity to earn free tuition for the Associate Degree Nursing program through Surry Community College that allows students to become registered nurses. Northern Regional Hospital is also registering students for licensed practical nurse apprenticeships.

“Originally, we were offering seven pre-apprentice opportunities; however, we were so impressed with the students that we expanded our internship placement to 13 students,” said Christi Smiley, the hospital's human resource director.

The students went through an extensive interview process where they were pre-screened and then interviewed by a hospital committee and evaluated in many areas including communication skills, enthusiasm, confidence, professionalism, program knowledge, and evidence of preparation for a career in healthcare.

“A major component of the apprenticeship program is a mentorship that provides one-on-one support to the apprentices. We matched each student with a mentor in seven of the hospital’s departments – Intensive Care Unit, Medical Surgical Unit, Step Down Unit, Skilled Nursing, Obstetrics, Emergency Department, and Operating Room. We wanted the students to have well-rounded experiences and place them in a department with a mentor that suited their personality, strengths, and career goals,” Smiley said.

The students began their apprenticeships on Jan. 11, and they will work through May 15. They will receive high school or college credit for their employment along with a stipend each month for travel expenses.

The students are: Laney Cave, Carrie McKeaver and Ashley Sewell of Surry Central High School; Jenny Cortes and Natalie Evans of Mount Airy High School; Tynlee Jones and Julie Marshall of East Surry High School; Katie Kellam of Elkin High School; Eryn O’Neal and Annsley Puckett of North Surry High School; Emily Santiago Orellana of Surry Early College High School; Anna Serrano of Starmount High School; and Reagan Wooten of Forbush High School. 

“We have a nursing shortage in the nation, and the apprenticeship program is a way to increase the number of qualified nurses locally and regionally. These students can get paid while going to school to earn their credentials and finish their education debt free,” Smiley said. “I would like to see this apprenticeship program grow to include other hospitals and medical practices in a synergistic relationship to recruit and retain qualified medical professionals for our region through a healthcare consortium.”

Surry-Yadkin Works is the first community-based internship program of its kind in North Carolina, officially beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, covering a two-county region. The program has hit the ground running with 50 students being placed in internships for the spring 2021 semester. Surry-Yadkin Works is the collaborative effort of four public school systems in Surry and Yadkin counties including Elkin City Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools and Yadkin County Schools, as well as Surry Community College, to create an innovative and unique approach to a regional internship program. The funding is also a joint effort with commitments from the Surry County Commissioners and the Yadkin County Commissioners. An anonymous contributor donated $100,000 prompted by a presentation about the program at an educational summit.

A virtual kickoff event will be held March 9, for Surry-Yadkin Works business partners and those businesses that would like to join the effort.

For more information about the program, contact Crystal Folger-Hawks, Surry-Yadkin Works program director, at 336-401-7820 or, or visit You can also follow Surry-Yadkin Works on Facebook and Instagram @surryyadkinworks and on Twitter @SurYadWorks.