Carthage College offers a Certified Nurse Aide program. Become a CNA in four weeks and advance yo...
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The first group of students accepted into Carthage’s brand new Certified Nurse Aide program will attend for free, thanks to generous scholarship funding from supporters Tom and Jan Duncan.

Applications are now available for the January 2024 cohort of the CNA program. In less than a month, aspiring health care workers can acquire the essential skills needed for an entry-level position.

The class is limited to 16 students. The donors are providing full scholarships that cover all fees, textbooks, and supplies, saving each person in this CNA cohort about $1,000.

CNA Program at Carthage


Over 34 years as an administrator for Froedtert South and its predecessor, United Hospital System, Tom Duncan saw firsthand the unrelenting need for well-trained employees. At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, he put the administrative tasks aside to assist the overextended medical staff.

“We’re looking to develop a new generation of professionals who can take the baton as health care providers to young and old alike,” says Tom, who retired last winter as Froedtert South’s chief operating officer. “We believe Carthage can spark their curiosity to pursue this vital and rewarding career path.”

The deadline to apply for this session is Nov. 27. The application includes a required 250-word essay about the “ethical responsibilities of the nursing assistant.”

A panel will select scholarship recipients who best represent the four pillars of excellence laid out by the donors: education, patient care, compassion, and quality. Their son, renowned University of Kentucky orthopedic surgeon Dr. Stephen Duncan, is one of the reviewers.

Jan and Tom Duncan Jan and Tom Duncan The CNA Duncan Family Scholarship Program reflects a commitment to both health care and education that spans three generations. Tom, the son of a physician and a nurse, and Jan, the daughter of two educators, calculate that their families have amassed 269 years of experience in these two critical professions.

Jan aided local children’s development for more than 30 years as a speech and language therapist, and Tom served a three-year term on the Kenosha Unified School Board. The retirees now spend winters in Scottsdale, Arizona, while their daughter Erin (Duncan) Zematis ’01 carries on the tradition as an English teacher in Kenosha.

Tom often thinks back to a speech he gave at a 1989 convention, when organizers asked him to forecast the health care landscape 30 years down the road. Making the case for new approaches to meet the needs of the aging American population, he joked about the personal stake in it — ensuring that, down the line, “there are enough people to take care of me.”

The couple admires Carthage’s blend of universally valuable liberal arts skills and in-demand offerings like the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Launched in 2015, it quickly became the college’s most popular major.

“We can’t stand by. We’ve got to look into the future and become it,” Tom says. “Hats off to the college for taking that forward-thinking approach.”

By removing financial barriers, he’s confident these scholarships will attract new workers to an occupation that’s often overlooked. CNAs assist residents with daily activities like bathing, dressing, and eating and perform other tasks under nurses’ supervision.

According to a report in October, the median CNA salary in Wisconsin was $35,039. With a foot in the door, many aides pursue additional coursework to become a registered nurse, physician assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist, physician, or other allied health occupation.

The Carthage CNA curriculum emphasizes compassionate, human-centered care for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Students in the program qualify to take the state competency exam, the final step to be listed on the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Registry.

The first session will run Jan. 8-30, with classes meeting in person weekdays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The clinical component consists of two 8-hour sessions in health care settings, supervised by Carthage faculty.

The CNA funding builds on a pair of Carthage scholarships the Duncans previously established in their parents’ honor. Those are awarded to returning students who pursue education, pre-health, or nursing and display a commitment to physical fitness.

Fueled by a quote from Aristotle that warned against complacency, Tom says “there’s always room to do more. It just takes time and resources, and that’s what we’re fortunate enough to do here.”

Nursing Programs at Carthage