From Assembly Line to the Bedside

PHOTO Fifty-one former auto workers, most of whom took buyouts a couple of years ago, are now on their way to earning bachelors degrees in nursing.

Detroit's auto factories sit empty just a few miles away from the place where new jobs are plentiful.

Randy Greene, 33, worked on rear axles for nine years at a Ford assembly plant in Detroit, but is now going to school to become a nurse .

Greene didn't think he'd be walking around with a stethoscope around his neck listening to heart beats, but says it's empowering.

"I don't have to come home smelling like oil," Greene said.

VIDEO: Health Care Offers Autoworkers Second Chance
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It's part of a retraining program for displaced auto workers, launched by Detroit's Oakland University and Henry Ford Hospital. Nursing instructor Karen Davis explained why the program is so unique.

"They've been given a really good second opportunity at a really good profession," she said.

Fifty-one former auto workers, most of whom took buyouts a couple of years ago, are now on their way to earning bachelor's degrees in nursing. The job descriptions seem different, but so are the job prospects.

Mary Kavutske, administer of nursing development at Henry Ford Hospital, explained there are needs in many different areas.

"There's just a big diverse area where they could find opportunities in," she said. "There are jobs here."

While 300,000 jobs have been lost in car and parts manufacturing in the last two years, the country is in desperate need for more nurses. The United States could suffer a nursing shortage of 500,000 in the next 15 years.

Colleen Harding, 40, is a single mother of three who used to install tail-lights, and this opportunity is a chance of a lifetime at the perfect time.

"It was just not good and we were already down to one shift and the now the plant is closed," Harding said.

It's tough training, long hours of classroom work and hospital rotations, but for Harding it's worth it.

"I'm going to make a difference," she said. "You know what I do is really important."

In the hospital, her patient Tom Macheri says she's doing good after going from bumpers to headaches.

Right now, this is a one-of-a-kind program, but everyone in Detroit is watching closely.

If Greene's buddies gave him a hard time when he turned to nursing, they aren't now. He said he wishes his friends would have followed him out the door of the plant and into this program.

"My future is so bright it's not even funny. I can go anywhere, I can do anything," Greene said.

That's something everyone around Detroit would like to hear more of these days.

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