Capital IDEA Hopes To Ease Covid-19 Unemployment By Training Nurses

Thursday, May 21st 2020

More than 1.3 million Texans have filed for unemployment since the Covid-19 outbreak. One organization is trying to help people get back to work.

“Our mission, ever since we started 20 some years ago, is to get low-income people into high-paying careers that are in demand by local employers,” said Steve Jackobs, executive director at Capital IDEA. “Places they can make enough money to take care of their families.”

Through programs with Austin Community College and Temple University, Capital IDEA strives to get job training for low-income people in Travis County. And one of the jobs in demand right now is nursing — Capital IDEA’s number one program.

“We've got 30 nurses graduating in a couple three weeks. They're all on schedule to graduate. They're already getting job offers,” Jackobs said. “We anticipate that that's not going to slow down, even when we get past the peak of the Covid."

That high demand has shifted the duties of some nurses in the field. Dolores Constantino graduated from the Capital Idea program more than 10 years ago. Before the pandemic, she was a charge nurse at a pediatric clinic. Now, she’s working with the Covid-19 registry.

“When anyone from the community decides to get tested, then once we get the results, we call them back. And take them through the process of what to do, whether a negative or positive.t,” she said.

Joanna De Crescenzo graduated a year ago. She’s a nursing supervisor for a home health agency. Covid-19 has changed her job as well.

“When I was hired, I was going out into the patients' homes, meeting with the nurse, whoever was caring for that patient, meeting with them, the parents, doing an assessment on the patient,” she said. “All those things, now, we're just doing via telephone.”

Both De Crescenzo and Costantino came into the nursing field later in life. De Crescenzo was a stay-at-home mom and Costantino worked as a receptionist before entering a program with Capital Idea.

“Capital Idea came along and I did with them LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse), and then about five years later, I went back with them again, to do my registered nurse license. So my life has changed, definitely,” Constantino said.

De Crescenzo credits Capital IDEA with getting her through the nursing program.

“They give you a lot of support. It makes the difference between people who can get that degree and people who can't,” she said.

She believes programs like this will help meet the demand for more nurses.

“It’s just one of the jobs in a pandemic that is not going away,” De Crescenzo said. “I would think that people when they're thinking about choosing their career would really think about nursing and MDs and nurse practitioners, all those, because that's a job that's very, very needed in a situation like this.”

Meeting the city’s job needs, while providing a quick opportunity to change careers, has always been Capital IDEA’s mission. Now, they are just moving things online, and the lessons they’ve learned will last long after the pandemic is over.

“We'll have choices for education in the future. There will be virtual tools developed to, not substitute for, but complement the scarce bedside clinicals that are part of a nurses education. ,” Jackobs said. “So we're getting pushed in a direction that we needed to go anyway and the smart thing for us to do is to go with that flow.”

This reporting is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's American Graduate "Getting to Work" initiative." For more information about Central Texas job opportunities, go to austinpbs.org/americangraduate.

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