In a challenging labor market, one Missouri nursing home is bucking the trends, and retaining young local talent at a “record level.”

Farmington Presbyterian Manor, 70 miles southwest of St. Louis, has been working with the local high school for about nine years as a way to cultivate workers. Students complete classwork for their CNA training at the school, and then spend about 100 hours through the course of the semester doing hands-on clinical work at the nursing home, said Talisha Brooks, assistant director of health services, and supervisor of the clinical side of the program.

This spring Presbyterian Manor was able to hire 12 students out of a graduating class of 26. Brooks attributes the record level of retention to the timing: The teens wrapped up their coursework right when the provider had lots of CNA slots open. Plus, the nursing home just modified its policy so that it can hire nurse aides at age 17, and before they have completed their certification.

“We needed staff; we needed help. So we were able to get that threshold lowered because we had all of these potential CNAs we weren’t able to hire until they were 18,” she told McKnight’s.

In addition to the lower age, Brooks said the nursing home started to allow students to experience more non-nursing areas of the field, such as dietary, activities, housekeeping, and therapy. She hopes the program — which is led by the high school — will help teens see long-term care and nursing as attractive career paths in their futures.

“Every long-term care community is needing more nurses, and that need is only going to grow,” Brooks said. “The [teens] can go anywhere and that’s why I think we have an edge with these students. They know us, they’ve served their clinical hours here, they know our residents, and they’ve fallen in love with them.”