Childcare, tuition assistance helping to recruit, retain caregivers | Ascension

Childcare, tuition assistance helping to recruit, retain caregivers

Jennifer Grazer works both as a patient care tech on the inpatient Oncology unit and as a tech in the Respiratory department Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. The Derby, Kansas, mother of three also is pursuing her degree in Respiratory Therapy at Hutchinson Community College, driving there three days a week for classes.

With the support of some unique benefits offered by Ascension Via Christi, Grazer and her husband, who manages a Wichita restaurant, are making it all work as she pursues her goal of becoming a respiratory therapist.

Grazer has committed to serving as a respiratory therapist at Ascension Via Christi for two years after receiving her degree in return for the tuition assistance she is receiving. While she is at work and school, her youngest, 2-year-old Emersyn, is cared for by the staff at the Ascension Via Christi Child Development Center, a childcare center established more than 40 years ago for associates and their families. It offers the flexible scheduling and extended hours that healthcare workers need and other childcare centers don't offer.

"Before coming to Ascension Via Christi, I worked at another hospital and they didn't offer anything like this," says Grazer, who began working at St. Francis last June.

"We hear that a lot," says Erica Rubin, program director for the CDC, where 170 children of associates currently are enrolled and another 60 typically will participate in its summer program. "It's clear from our wait list that the need for our program is there and provides a tremendous benefit for associates."

The tuition assistance Grazer is receiving is through a program designed to incentivize current and prospective associates to work in the Respiratory department, enroll in a respiratory therapy program and go on to serve as a respiratory therapist at Ascension Via Christi. Seven of her 12 classmates have committed to serving at Ascension Via Christi.

"In addition, we have four students in Newman University's program and are working with Labette Community College and Washburn University so that associates in the Pittsburg and Manhattan area have the same opportunity," says Allan Thomas, director of Respiratory Therapy at Ascension Via Christi. Thomas says he is still looking to recruit another five associates wanting to work in Respiratory while working toward their degree.

In 2021, Ascension Via Christi provided more than $500,000 in tuition assistance, helping associates grow their knowledge and skills in a variety of clinical and non-clinical roles.

Another avenue of support for associates as they chart their career paths is Annette Heilman, Nursing career coach for Ascension Via Christi's Kansas hospitals and clinics.

"I'm here to listen to individuals' stories and help them open doors to explore opportunities that align with their passion and their personal and professional aspirations by helping eliminate barriers and illuminate opportunities that they might not know exist, such as tuition reimbursement, scholarships, continuing education and professional shadowing," says Heilman. "This is their journey. I am here to support and guide individuals to achieve their goals and unlock their potential."


To explore career opportunities at Ascension Via Christi, go to For help charting your nursing career path, call or text Heilman at 316-285-0009 or email her at