WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (7/26/21) – Lawrence Healthcare and Williams Baptist University are forming a partnership to fill employment needs at the hospital while providing valuable experience and training for WBU students. Through the agreement, students in the Williams Works initiative will gain important certifications, as well as hands-on experience in healthcare.

“We were excited the first time we heard about the Williams Works program,” said Lawrence Healthcare CEO Josh Conlee. “Student loan burden is a burden many of our employees know too well. Being a part of a program that could eliminate that burden for WBU students and provide our potential workforce of the future was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

Both entities are located in Walnut Ridge. Lawrence Healthcare operates Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Lawrence Hall Nursing Center, while WBU is a Christian, liberal arts university with just over 600 students. The school launched its Williams Works initiative last fall, which gives students an opportunity to work their way through school.

“Biology/pre-medicine is consistently one of our most popular majors, so this presents a great opportunity for those students, and others with an interest in health-related professions, to get invaluable experience in healthcare,” said Dr. Stan Norman, WBU’s president. “We are thrilled to join this partnership.”

Students accepted into Williams Works agree to work 16 hours per week all through the fall and spring semesters, and in exchange have their tuition and student service fees covered. Additionally, students who work 40 hours per week in the summer can cover their room and board expenses, giving them the opportunity to complete their university education debt-free.

Through the agreement with Lawrence Healthcare, Williams Works students work for two years at the hospital and nursing center, gaining experience in nursing, support services, administration and activities & social services. The process includes certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Resident Assistant (RA).

“The Lawrence Healthcare program will provide students who might have an interest in the healthcare field to experience a wide variety of our facilities,” Conlee said. “Students will have the opportunity to work in multiple areas of our nursing home, hospital and support services and see what opportunities healthcare has to offer. It is a perfect program for any WBU student who is pre-healthcare to build their resume and find and/or confirm their calling in life.”

The program will launch with a few students this fall, and officials at WBU and Lawrence Healthcare say they expect it to grow rapidly in the future.

“WBU has begun a very exciting collaboration with Josh Conlee and many others at Lawrence Healthcare,” said Norman. “This is a partnership with unlimited potential, and we fully expect to see other important initiatives come from this in the not-so-distant future to the benefit of WBU students, Lawrence Healthcare and the region as a whole.”

Conlee said the agreement is a “win-win” situation for Lawrence Healthcare and WBU students.

“The Williams Works program will benefit Lawrence Healthcare by providing a like-minded talent pool for our organization,” he said. “WBU students will provide a reliable employee pool and help contribute to both the operation and culture of our organization. The long-term hope is that many WBU students graduate, stay in our community, and become team members at Lawrence Healthcare.”

Conlee, who also serves as board chair of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, is also excited about the collaboration between two key entities in the county.  

“A partnership between Lawrence County’s only university and the county’s largest healthcare facility and the employer makes perfect sense and helps us meet our mission,” he said. “Community connection is one area that we will put particular focus on in the future and look to explore and expand other partnerships with WBU and others in our community.”

WBU is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge.