During a typical school year, CNA students would be required to clock clinical hours at a Long Term Care facility (LCT) to be eligible to test for certification, but this year due to COVID-19 they had to bring the LCT experience to the classroom.

Read the Q&A below with CNA instructor, Melissa Rose, to learn more about how her classes are adjusting to their new norms:

Q: Tell us about a normal year for the CNA program at FHS.

A: During a normal CNA year we learn skills in the fall and gain clinical hours starting in January.  Students have to have 40 hours of clinical experience in a long term care facility. They actually get to perform hands on care and help take care of the residents. When we complete the required clinical and classroom hours, the students take a written and skills test to be Certified Nursing Assistants.  We have several of our former CNAs working at our local hospitals, clinics, long term care facilities, and in home care – many on the front lines of healthcare while attending college.

One of the special things about this class is the real life experience students get when they go to the LTC’s. The experience for the students is truly life changing. They bond with the residents in the short amount of time that they are at clinicals. They get to experience what it means to serve someone and help meet the needs of others. They learn what an honor it is to help someone who is no longer able to do things for themselves.

Q: How have you adjusted to the new COVID restrictions so that students may still be eligible to test?

A: Because of COVID, we are not able to go to LCT facilities this year. Ms. Reeves and I really wanted the students to have a clinical experience as close to the real thing as possible. Students are still required to have the same number of clinical hours to be eligible to test for certification. Rather than simply acting out small scenarios (which is currently allowed), we wanted our clinical hours to still be meaningful. We decided to create our own LTC.  The students come early to school. Each day half are student CNAs and half are residents. We assign the residents their “character” for the morning. Some of the residents are in wheelchairs, some use canes, some use walkers. They stay in their role all morning.

Our Cafeteria staff have breakfast trays ready early for our students to pick up for the “residents”. We go through a complete morning routine. We have an “activity director” assigned each day for students to plan and help residents with activities. For 5 hours each day, our students are performing patient care for the “residents.”

Q: What feedback have you received from the students?

A: Some of the feedback our students have given us is that they are being impacted by the experience of having to be a resident. They are getting to see what it is like on the other side of the stethoscope. I think the experience overall will make them better healthcare providers.

Q: In addition to their clinical hour requirement, what are students gaining from this experience?

A: I wish that programs like this were around when I was in high school. These students are already preparing for their careers and will leave here with a certification for a very high demand job, and a head start in healthcare. Those that are already 18 will start work as soon as testing is complete in the spring.

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