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Nursing assistant program sees high success level

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The cost of a certified nursing assistant license can be upward of $2,000 when materials, classes and fees are considered; but area high school students can earn their certification for less than $200 as part of the C4 Columbus Area Career Connection nursing program.

The program was started in 1978. By 1983, it had only 13 students.

Today the program at Columbus East High School is the largest in the state with 174 students enrolled in the first semester.

Kay Gorday, health careers coordinator and instructor for C4, said the program is popular in high school because students can see an end result.

“It’s very clear why they have to know what they’re knowing,” she said. “They definitely see some value in their learning.”

With a license in hand ...

After they earn their license from the Indiana State Department of Health, the students can work as nursing assistants in nursing homes, doctors’ offices, personal homes and at Columbus Regional Health.

Certified nursing assistants are the patients’ primary source of physical, emotional and spiritual support aside from their immediate family.

Nursing students also see dollar value in their future.

Students start out making $11 or $12 an hour working as a CNA in a nursing home or other health facilities. Full-time CNAs typically start out making about $26,000 per year with benefits.

Gorday said with a few more years of education and another certification, those students are almost guaranteed a job as a registered nurse.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 1.2 million registered nurses will be needed to address the demand in the workforce by 2020.

More than just nursing

The CNA program prepares students for more than a career in nursing — students can also explore pharmacy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, surgery, sports medicine and emergency services.

Olivia Frownfelter, a junior who earned her CNA License last week, said she has always wanted to work with younger people.

“Now I can work my way through college to be a pediatric nurse,” she said.

She has been logging hours at a nursing home and already knows she will enjoy a career in the field.

“The hardest part of this class is when you’re out at the nursing home and you have to leave them to get back to school,” she said.

Jeremy Eltz, health science consultant for the Indiana Department of Education, said he considers the C4 program a model and encourages representatives from other programs to take notice.

Last year all of the 96 nursing assistant students passed their CNA exam, and Gorday said those results are typical.

The state of Indiana requires students to sit through at least 30 hours of classroom lessons and 75 hours of practical training. Students in the C4 program attend class and laboratory training the first semester, and then they receive 75 hours of clinical training the second semester.

Students have been preparing for their state-administered competency program by going through a list of skills. With a group of other students, they would run through how to wash patients’ hands or move them from the bed to a wheelchair.

Curriculum includes the rights of patients, basic nursing assistant skills, infection control, restorative treatment, emergency treatment, mental health recognition and interpersonal competencies.

“What we’re teaching is something that is a real-life career and a stepping-stone,” Gorday said.

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