Lee Health awarded four “Heart of Caring” scholarships to Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) at Lee Health April 29, putting them on the path to getting their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Hunter Fields, Jennifer Guevara, Amber Newborn and Ana Vieira received full scholarships to pursue and obtain their nursing degrees. Mark and Carolyn Ain started the annual scholarship program in 2016 after a hospital stay made them realize how vital CNAs are to enhancing patient care.

“I was in the hospital here, and I was blown away with the care,” said Mark Ain, a seasonal resident from Massachusetts who founded Kronos, a global workforce management software provider. “I’ve been in hospitals in Massachusetts, which is supposedly the best in the country if not the world, and the care does not compare to the care here. After I had my second operation, I called (Lee Health Foundation) and said I’d like to do something for the CNAs. They told me there was an education program that did not make the budget cut that year, and I said, ‘it just did.’ It’s been an incredible experience funding and meeting them through the years. It’s a very special day, and you are very special people.”

Since the scholarships were established by the Ains in 2016, 10 Lee Health CNAs have received scholarships, which include application fees, tuition, books and other fees as well as a stipend for non-academic expenses. Recipients commit to working for Lee Health for two years after their education is completed. The Ains have also provided funding for CNA educational symposiums at Lee Health and staff food trucks during the pandemic, to date $700,000 in donations.

“Finances are a stressor,” said recipient Vieira, through tears. “I have always wanted to do this, so I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity.”

Due to a growing demand for healthcare services amplified by the pandemic, reports project that 1.2 million new registered nurses (RNs) will be needed by 2030. Opportunities like the “Heart of Caring” Scholarship Program are critical to addressing the nursing shortage and ensuring adequate healthcare staffing.

“The entire country is short-staffed. There are estimates that 30 to 40% of people working in health care today don’t want to be at the bedside anymore,” said Lee Health’s Chief Officer Hospital Based Care Armando Llechu. “The only answer to this problem is to continue to drive the education and training of professionals and help people to fall in love again with the delivery of care. We are grateful that Mark and Carolyn have helped us do that over the past several years. It’s meaningful work to train individuals who want to continue to drive their career and to grow it with us here at Lee Health.”

Vieira has worked as a CNA in both adult general medicine and pediatric (neonatal intensive care) units, which helped solidify her career aspirations in pediatrics. Guevara has a strong interest in critical care. Fields and Newborn see opportunities to teach others and are interested in educating nursing students on proper care and the importance of the profession.

For information on supporting programs at Lee Health, visit LeeHealthFoundation.org.

About Lee Health Foundation 

Lee Health Foundation raises philanthropic dollars on behalf of Lee Health including Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital, and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The Foundation provides financial support for many service areas including the Lee Health Regional Cancer Center, Lee Health – Coconut Point, The Rehabilitation Hospital, Shipley Cardiothoracic Center, Community Health Clinics and Golisano Children’s Hospital Specialty Clinics in both Charlotte and Naples. Please visit LeeHealthFoundation.org or call (239) 343-6950 for more information about the role of Lee Health philanthropy in Southwest Florida.