KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — Leslie Neftzger has a degree in hospitality and operates a bed and breakfast in Logansport.
But for eight weeks this fall, Neftzger was at Ivy Tech Kokomo learning to be a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
It’s a high-in-demand job, and Neftzger and her classmates had offers prior to taking their state certification exams.
But she won’t be working at any of the facilities that would be happy to have her. Instead, Neftzger will provide in-home care to her parents.
“That’s why I’m doing it, so my parents don’t have to go there,” she said.
A certified nursing assistant is a patient’s advocate. A CNA interacts with patients on a daily basis. They relay important information to nurses and doctors.
“A residence’s lifeline,” Neftzger said.
But there’s a lot more to being a CNA, and Ivy Tech’s course teaches students all 72 skills needed for the job. Skills include how to prepare bedding, bathing patients, oral care and dealing with seizures.
Faith Weesner, the new director of the CNA program at Ivy Tech Kokomo, said an important part of the course is learning how to treat patients with empathy. Learning the human touch and bedside manner are just as important as properly removing a bedpan.
Seventy-two sounds like a lot — and it is, especially in a fast-paced eight-week course. Even more challenging is that each skill is broken up into a series of steps. CNA students must learn the order of these steps and their purpose.
The bed and bath skill has 35 steps.
“They’re not only learning how to take care of them, they’re also learning how to do it safely,” Weesner said.
Golda Fox uses plenty of notecards and highlighters to keep it all straight. Ivy Tech’s new facilities and labs help, too. Simulation beds and dummies provide the hands-on experience needed to make coursework click.
CNAs also log a number of hours working in actual patient settings, such as nursing homes. Fox shadowed a hospice nurse in the lead up to her certification exam.
“Being able to do it on a person makes it make more sense,” she said.
Neftzger said that although there is much to learn, much of the material is common sense, which makes learning it all a little less daunting.
The state exam involves two parts: a written exam, immediately followed by a skills test. The skills portion tests students on one of the 72 skills.
A CNA certificate serves as an almost guarantee for employment — demand is high for these health care workers — but it can also be a stepping stone.
Kaidence Rouse, 17, intends to use her CNA certificate to enter the workforce and work toward becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Rouse said she's had multiple offers.
Weesner said facilities are offering enticing sign-on bonuses, given their need for CNAs. Nursing homes can use Workforce Ready Grants from the state to reimburse students for the cost of the course, another way they’re trying to attract future CNAs.
“People are calling, ‘Hey, I have a bonus for this much, and I need CNAs,’” Weesner said.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment for CNAs to grow 8% by 2030, due to the need to replace workers transferring to a different occupation or leaving the labor force, such as for retirement.
CNA certification is under Ivy Tech’s Healthcare Specialist program. This program offers a variety of certification options, including dementia care, phlebotomy and pharmacy technician, aiming to address the shortage of health care specialist workers.
A 16-week course for qualified medication aide (QMA) certification will be offered in fall 2022. Completion of QMA, CNA and dementia care courses, plus behavioral health, will give students a long-term care specialist certificate, which builds toward an associate degree in health care specialist.
Nursing students can take the CNA course and earn credit toward their own program.
The dementia care course is open to all students — no pre-requisites required. The class is beneficial to anyone who works with dementia patients, has a family member with symptoms or just wants to better understand dementia, Weesner said.
She added that Ivy Tech is looking at offering health care specialist courses at the Logansport and Peru locations.
“We want to see what the community needs, and what we have to offer them,” she said.
The CNA class for January has already filled, but enrollment is open for both CNA and dementia courses that begin March 23.
Source: Kokomo Tribune