National CNA Day—June 14—is an opportunity to celebrate certified nurse assistant (CNA) staff around the country and, in the height of graduation season, learn about programs that bring newly minted CNAs, all graduates of training programs hosted by members, into aging services.
“These people are graduating, we need to throw a party,” says Heidi K. Schmoldt, administrative assistant for Pleasant View Nursing Home in Monroe, WI, which recently partnered with Blackhawk Technical College to provide classroom and clinical training for CNA trainees.
Schmoldt says that a group of seven Pleasant View CNA trainees, who complete their classroom work at the college and train at her nursing home, are preparing to sit for their Wisconsin state test when training wraps up in mid-July.
Programs like Pleasant View’s are critical. “Particularly now, when nursing homes are in dire need of more staff,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge. “We must leverage every possible opportunity to bring qualified workers into the sector and build pipelines to help deliver quality care for our country’s aging population.”
Forest Hills of DC CEO Tina Sandri agrees. Her organization partnered with Suma Prime School of Healthcare in Washington, DC, and worked with the District’s Department of Employment Services to create an apprenticeship program for the advanced CNA certification, combining traditional CNA classroom instruction with structured and supervised on-the-job learning. On May 25, Sandri and staff cheered as an inaugural group of five apprentice graduates received their advanced certifications after completing a 10-month curriculum.
“The apprenticeship training helps CNAs get some prerequisites out of the way if they want to go into nursing school later,” says Sandri. “One apprentice has already applied into LPN school, and she’s been accepted,” who adds, “We’re not just telling [students] how to take care of people. We also provide mentoring, empowerment, knowledge, skills, abilities. We’re giving them emotional support along the way. We’re going to need people to feel like this is honorable work.”
In Fort Worth, TX, the James L. West Center for Dementia Care works with students at North Side High School, a Technical Early College High School, or P-TECH program. P-TECH is a national initiative, designed to allow students to earn a tuition-free associate degree in one of eight areas, adopted by the Fort Worth Independent School District.
Cathy Neece Brown, James L. West’s chief strategy officer and vice president of mission support, says taking its in-house CNA training program as a starting point, her organization was able to tweak the program for high school students and become the only post-acute PTECH partner in the state of Texas. The end of the training was celebrated with a May 25 celebration at the high school.
After the students work full-time in the summer, Brown says students switch to part-time for the fall. “We broke some 12-hour shifts into four or six hours to make it easier for the students to work. And one of our students is working here and at another LeadingAge [member] who’s across the street!”
That sort of creativity is a must to help students balance the demands and costs of education.
Pleasant View’s program pays students a resident assistant wage while training. “They’re heading into health care like never before,” says Schmoldt. “They have really no out-of-pocket cost other than gas coming to and from work. That is a huge win-win and helps a lot of students out so they can really save money.”
As for the celebrations, Schmoldt says having a ceremony is “a no-brainer,” completing the celebration with personalized certificates, a commencement speech from Pleasant View’s former nurse educator, and a custom cake that reads “CNAs have big hearts.”
Photo: Five apprentice graduates received their advanced certifications at Forest Hills of DC after completing a 10-month curriculum. Photo courtesy of Forest Hills of DC.