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Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

Renee Shaw talks with early childhood education expert Sarah Taylor Vanover, Ed.D., about why America's childcare industry is on the verge of collapse and what can be done to save it. Vanover is the author of "America's Child-Care Crisis: Rethinking an Essential Business."
Season 16 Episode 29 Length 27:32 Premiere: 05/16/21

An Essential Industry Faces a Crossroads as the Pandemic Ends

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky’s child care industry faced significant challenges, ranging from a lack of centers in more than half of the state’s counties, to low wages for child care workers, to tight finances for owners and operators.

Pandemic-related restrictions made matters even worse. Under state mandates, many centers had to close for several months to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Ones that remained open had to limit their capacity and follow strict health protocols. Now with centers returning to normal operations and pre-COVID capacities, the financial outlook for the industry remains unclear.

“Most child care programs, their goal each month is to break even – it is not a profit industry,” says Sarah Taylor Vanover, director of the Division of Child Care at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Finding and Paying Qualified Child Care Workers

In the early days of out-of-home child care, the primary responsibility of providers was to offer a safe and secure place for children to stay while their parents were at work. Hanover says that remains a critical part of the service child care centers provide today.

“Parents will not go to work if they do not feel their children are safe,” she says. “So having safe and secure child care makes sure that parents and caregivers can go to work be a part of the economy.”

As modern research has shown how much children learn from birth through age 5, Hanover says the focus of child care centers evolved to include activities to develop problem-solving, language, creativity, and social skills in children. Hanover says these exercises not only prepare children to enter kindergarten and elementary school, but will also help them succeed when they grow up.

“Child care helps prepare the next generation of the workforce,” she says. “We’re creating future architects and engineers and teachers and doctors.”

That change in mission also meant that child care workers had to expand from more of a baby-sitting function to an educator role. Hanover says the minimum standard for an employee of a child care center is a high school diploma or GED equivalent, but many centers now require workers to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification.

But cash-strapped centers may not be able to afford CDA-certified employees, says Hanover, much less workers with a full college degree. She says many child care staff barely make above minimum wage; only 16 percent of workers nationally get health care benefits.

“So it’s hard, based on the salary, to hire the most qualified candidates,” she says. “A lot of times child care programs will hire people who are new to the work force, young, and begin to train them through that program and help them…. to get a degree.”

When child care centers closed during the pandemic, Hanover says many laid off staff found other work that paid better, or they went on unemployment, which paid more than they made working full-time in child care. She says that’s making it difficult to lure those workers back into child care now that centers are open again.

Many Kentucky Parents Face Child Care Deserts

Even while child care centers operate on thin margins, parents face escalating enrollment costs. Hanover says she spends more on child care for her two boys than she does on her monthly mortgage. She says some families pay as much in child care for their toddler as they would to send a child to college for a year.

In fact, American parents are spending $42 billion a year on care for their preschool children. That’s more than state and federal appropriations for child care combined, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

“Parents can only pay so much, so child care providers can only charge so much,” says Hanover “They aren’t really charging the cost of quality, they’re charging as much as they think they can get from the family.”

Higher quality child care can also come with higher costs, which Hanover says leaves some parents in a bind. Wealthier families can afford to pay out of pocket, and government subsidies are available to help low-income parents afford quality child care options where available.

“But if you’re a middle class and you don’t qualify for subsidy, it can be very challenging to pay for a high-quality program,” she says.

Beyond the costs, parents also face an issue of access. Hanover says that pre-COVID, Kentucky had slots for more than 165,000 children in care centers. But U.S. Census data indicates Kentucky has more than 272,000 children under the age of 5. Hanover says the commonwealth also has 65 counties that are designated as child care deserts, which means there are more children needing care than there are available child care slots. The problem is especially acute in rural areas where geographic distances and population densities may make it difficult for centers to find enough clients to operate profitably.

Child Care and Corporate America Can Benefit Each Other

Hanover says the child care industry benefitted from three rounds of federal pandemic relief funding over the past year. But that doesn’t mean it was easy for care centers to survive.

“We saw child care providers all over the U.S., owners and directors, that were taking money out of their own pockets, emptying their IRAs, taking out small business loans, maxing out their credit cards to keep their programs open,” she says.

Now the challenge is to ensure that the industry can sustain and even grow after these cash infusions are gone. She says corporations and businesses can play a critical role in the future of child care.

“Companies benefit most when their employees come to work on a regular basis… when they’re not late, when they’re consistent,” says Hanover, “and for many working families, child care is the biggest reason that they have to stay home.”

In her new book, “America's Child-Care Crisis: Rethinking an Essential,” Hanover explains how child care is the industry that supports all the others precisely because it allows parents to work and participate in the economy.

She says businesses can offer their own child care option or provide a child care stipend as part of an employee’s benefits package. Larger companies can host on-site child care for their employees, says Hanover, while smaller ones can partner with nearby child care centers or child care homes. That way the employer guarantees the child care provider a certain number of children and a related revenue stream.

“Both entities end up benefitting because the child care program can reach full enrollment that way,” says Hanover. “The business itself, they don’t have to worry about losing staff and retraining people, which can be an expensive process.”

Child care homes operate like child care centers, only on a smaller scale. But they have to follow the same certifications, inspections, and requirements that larger centers offer. Hanover says the Cabinet is developing programs to train home-care providers on how to manage their operation and grow their business.

“This is an opportunity for new entrepreneurs,” she says. “It’s not just that you’re watching children in your home, you become a small business owner.”

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Season 16 Episodes

Filmmaker Elizabeth Helm-Frazier

S16 E37 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 08/01/21

Early Childhood Development Initiatives in Louisville

S16 E36 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 07/25/21

Kathy Werking and Jim Embry

S16 E35 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 07/17/21

Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack

S16 E34 Length 27:41 Premiere Date 07/11/21

Boone Co. Judge Executive Gary Moore

S16 E33 Length 28:03 Premiere Date 06/26/21

The Demands and Rewards of Fatherhood

S16 E32 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 06/20/21

Psychologist Julie Cerel

S16 E31 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 06/13/21

Restaurateur and Chef Ouita Michel

S16 E30 Length 27:56 Premiere Date 06/06/21

Sarah Taylor Vanover - Early Childhood Education

S16 E29 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 05/16/21

A Conversation with U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell

S16 E28 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 05/09/21

Cynthia Knapek of Louisville Leadership Center

S16 E27 Length 27:35 Premiere Date 05/01/21

Vaccine Equity and Hesitancy

S16 E26 Length 28:22 Premiere Date 04/24/21

State Treasurer Allison Ball and Sharon Price

S16 E25 Length 28:31 Premiere Date 04/18/21

Chef and Activist Dan Wu

S16 E24 Length 27:52 Premiere Date 04/11/21

EKU Criminal Justice Professor Pete Kraska

S16 E23 Length 28:00 Premiere Date 04/03/21

The Rise of Anti-Asian Violence

S16 E22 Length 27:32 Premiere Date 03/28/21

Authors Prisha Hedau, Carly Muetterties and Maddie Shepard

S16 E21 Length 28:21 Premiere Date 03/21/21

Charles Booker

S16 E20 Length 28:27 Premiere Date 03/14/21

Mental Health and COVID-19

S16 E19 Length 28:39 Premiere Date 02/14/21

Community Activist Christopher 2X

S16 E18 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 02/07/21

Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Keith Jackson

S16 E17 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 01/31/21

A Mission to End Institutional Racism in Kentucky

S16 E16 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 01/24/21

Celebrating the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County

S16 E15 Length 28:33 Premiere Date 01/17/21

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman

S16 E14 Length 27:06 Premiere Date 01/10/21

Caroline Randall Williams

S16 E13 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 12/20/20

Amy Luttrell and Adria Johnson

S16 E12 Length 28:12 Premiere Date 12/13/20

Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass

S16 E11 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11/22/20

Louisville Metro Police Interim Chief Yvette Gentry

S16 E10 Length 28:11 Premiere Date 11/15/20

Jecorey Arthur and Quintez Brown

S16 E9 Length 27:31 Premiere Date 11/08/20

Terrance Sullivan

S16 E8 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 11/01/20

2020 Election Preview with Colmon Elridge and Tres Watson

S16 E7 Length 28:02 Premiere Date 10/25/20

Beth Howard and Michael Harrington; Devine Carama

S16 E6 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 10/18/20

Nana Ama Aya Bullock and Muriel Harris

S16 E5 Length 28:26 Premiere Date 10/11/20

Betsy Johnson, Saundra Ardrey

S16 E4 Length 28:41 Premiere Date 10/04/20

Fabian Alvarez, Leyda Becker and Mercedes Harn

S16 E3 Length 28:06 Premiere Date 09/27/20

Devine Carama; Marjorie Guyon and Barry Darnell Burton

S16 E2 Length 28:46 Premiere Date 09/20/20

Marsha Weinstein

S16 E1 Length 28:01 Premiere Date 09/11/20

See All Episodes

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Premiered On: 07/24/2015

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Premiered On: 07/31/2015

Renee and her guests discuss the health benefits of breastfeeding in recognition of national breastfeeding week, as well as provide tips on proper infant nutrition. Scheduled guests include: Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, Breastfeeding Support Services with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Dept.; Ana Maria Linares, an associate professor in the UK College of Nursing and a Lactation Consultant who has conducted research on attitudes and practices around breastfeeding among Latinas in Lexington; and Nicole Peritore, program coordinator for the Health Education through Extension Leadership (HEEL) Office at the University of Kentucky.

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Premiered On: 08/07/2015

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Premiered On: 08/14/2015

Renee talks with transgender activist JoAnne Wheeler Bland, who in her sixties transitioned from male to female. A practicing attorney for more than 40 years, she is a former Special Justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court, former Vice-President of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, current member of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education's Committee on Equal Opportunity (the Diversity Committee), and guest speaker at Women's and Gender Studies programs at Kentucky universities.

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Faith Politics

Premiered On: 08/21/2015

Renee and her guests talk about the role of religion in politics and public policy decision-making. Guests: Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, pastor of New Union Christian Church, and Rev. D. Anthony Everett, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church.

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Kinship Care

Premiered On: 08/28/2015

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Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk

Premiered On: 09/11/2015

Renee Shaw interviews new Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk, who talks about his experiences in public education and his goals for the district.

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The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia - Gerald Smith

Premiered On: 09/18/2015

Renee's guest is Dr. Gerald Smith, an author and history professor at the University of Kentucky, and co-editor of "The Kentucky African-American Encyclopedia: Life and Culture in the Commonwealth". The reference book contains entries on the individuals, events, places, organizations, movements, and institutions that helped shape the state's history and cultural diversity.

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Childhood Cancer

Premiered On: 09/25/2015

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Premiered On: 10/02/2015

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Premiered On: 10/09/2015

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Premiered On: 10/30/2015

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  • Thursday October 20, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Premiered On: 11/06/2015

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Premiered On: 11/13/2015

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Premiered On: 11/20/2015

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Premiered On: 12/11/2015

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Premiered On: 01/15/2016

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Premiered On: 01/22/2016

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Premiered On: 01/29/2016

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A Tribute to Georgia Davis Powers

Premiered On: 02/05/2016

In this special episode, Renee and her guests Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP, and State Sen. Gerald Neal celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer and former Kentucky Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, the first African-American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate. Powers died January 30, 2016 at the age of 92. The program features never-before-seen footage of an interview Renee conducted with Powers two years ago.

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Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention

Premiered On: 04/08/2016

Jill Seyfred, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, discusses efforts to increase awareness and prevention of child abuse in the state.

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Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes

Premiered On: 04/15/2016

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes talks about her legislative agenda and the new online voter registration portal.

  • Thursday November 3, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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  • Thursday November 3, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Crystal Wilkinson

Premiered On: 04/22/2016

Affrilachian poet and author Crystal Wilkinson talks about her first novel, "The Birds of Opulence", that tackles the issue of mental illness and the plight of the African American female experience in the South.

  • Friday November 4, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday November 4, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY
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Bob Jackson - Murray State University - S18 E4

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Josh Nadzam and Tanya Torp - S10 E37

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Susan and Morgan Guess - S10 E34

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Jay Williams - S10 E33

  • Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Pellom McDaniels - S10 E30

  • Tuesday September 27, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Kiley Lane Parker - S10 E29

  • Monday September 26, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 26, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Monday September 26, 2022 5:29 am ET on KETKY
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David Adkins - The Council of State Governments - S18 E3

  • Saturday October 1, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday October 1, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
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Kevin Chapman - S10 E28

  • Friday September 23, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Kendell Nash - ECHO - S10 E27

  • Thursday September 22, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Dorothy Edwards and Diane Fleet - S10 E26

  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 21, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Elaine Chao - S10 E23

  • Tuesday September 20, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Diabetes Epidemic - S10 E20

  • Monday September 19, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 19, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Monday September 19, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Melynda Jamison - CASA of Lexington - S18 E2

  • Sunday September 25, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 25, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 24, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Sunday September 18, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
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Mary Gwen Wheeler, 55,000 Degrees - S10 E16

  • Friday September 16, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 16, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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15K Degrees Initiative - S10 E13

  • Thursday September 15, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Thursday September 15, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Sister Helen Prejean - S10 E12

  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 14, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
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Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court - S10 E11

  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 13, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Bill Farmer - S10 E8

  • Monday September 12, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Monday September 12, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 12, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

State Treasurer Allison Ball - S18 E1

  • Sunday September 11, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Reporter Jonathan Bullington - S17 E23

  • Sunday September 18, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 18, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 17, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
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  • Sunday September 11, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
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Diane Follingstad - UK Women's Circle Endowment Chair - S10 E6

  • Friday September 9, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 9, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
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Kevin Chapman - S10 E5

  • Thursday September 8, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 8, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Soreyda Benedit Begley and Chris Begley - S10 E3

  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Wednesday September 7, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Bloggers on Personal Development - S10 E2

  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday September 6, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Chris Rabb - S10 E1

  • Monday September 5, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Monday September 5, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Nikki Lanier - Harper Slade - S17 E22

  • Sunday September 11, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 11, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY
  • Saturday September 10, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Saturday September 10, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 6:00 pm ET on KET2
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 5:00 pm CT on KET2
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 4:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 3:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 12:00 pm ET on KET
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 11:00 am CT on KET

Delanor Manson - Kentucky Nurses Association - S17 E36

  • Sunday September 4, 2022 8:00 am ET on KETKY
  • Sunday September 4, 2022 7:00 am CT on KETKY

Tanya Torp and Holly Houston - S9 E46

  • Friday September 2, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 5:30 am ET on KETKY
  • Friday September 2, 2022 4:30 am CT on KETKY

Frontier Nursing University - S9 E45

  • Thursday September 1, 2022 10:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 9:30 pm CT on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 2:00 pm ET on KETKY
  • Thursday September 1, 2022 1:00 pm CT on KETKY
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