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 become a certified practical nurse (CNA).
It’s a high-demand job, and Neftzger and his classmates received offers before taking their state certification exams.
But she won’t work at any of the facilities that would be happy to have her. Instead, Neftzger will provide home care for his parents.
“That’s why I do it, so my parents don’t have to go,” she said.
A Certified Practical Nurse is a patient’s advocate. A CNA interacts with patients on a daily basis. They convey important information to nurses and doctors.
“The lifeline of a residence,” Neftzger said.
But there’s a lot more to being a CNA, and the Ivy Tech course teaches students all 72 skills needed for the job. Skills include preparing bedding, bathing patients, oral care and managing seizures.
Faith Weesner, the new CNA program director at Ivy Tech Kokomo, said an important part of the course is learning to treat patients with empathy. Learning human contact and bedside manners 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 difficult is that each skill is broken down into a series of stages. CNA students should learn the order of these steps and their purpose.
The bed and bath skill has 35 steps.
“They’re not just learning how to take care of themselves, they’re also learning how to do it safely,” Weesner said.
Golda Fox uses a lot of note cards and highlighters to keep everything straight. Ivy Tech’s new facilities and labs are also helpful. Simulation beds and manikins provide the hands-on experience necessary for classes to work properly.
CNAs also log a number of working hours in real patient environments, such as nursing homes. Fox shadowed a hospice nurse before her certification exam.
“Being able to do it on a person makes it more logical,” she said.
Neftzger said while there’s a lot to learn, much of the material is common sense, which makes learning a little less daunting.
The state exam consists of two parts: a written exam, immediately followed by a skills test. The skills portion tests students on one of 72 skills.
A CNA certificate serves as a virtual guarantee of employment — demand is high for these healthcare workers — but it can also be a stepping stone.
Kaidence Rouse, 17, plans to use her CNA certificate to enter the workforce and work towards becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Rouse said she had several offers.
Weesner said the facilities offer tempting connection bonuses, given their need for DACs. Nursing homes can use state Workforce Ready grants to reimburse students for the cost of the course, another way they try to attract future CNAs.
“People are calling, ‘Hey, I got a bonus for that, and I need CNA,'” Weesner said.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of CNAs will increase by 8% by 2030, due to the need to replace workers who change jobs or leave the labor force, for example for retirement.
The CNA certification falls under Ivy Tech’s Healthcare Specialist program. This program offers a variety of certification options, including dementia care, phlebotomy, and pharmacy technician, aimed at addressing the shortage of skilled health care workers.
A 16-week course for the Qualified Medication Assistant (QMA) certification will be offered in the fall of 2022. Completion of the QMA, CNA, and Dementia Care courses, as well as Behavioral Health, will give students a specialist certificate in long-term care, which converts into an associate specialist degree in health care.
Nursing students can take the CNA course and earn credit for their own program.
The Dementia Care course is open to all students — no prerequisites are required. The class is beneficial for anyone who works with dementia patients, has a family member with symptoms, or simply wants to better understand dementia, Weesner said.
She added that Ivy Tech is considering offering specialized healthcare courses at the Logansport and Peru sites.
“We want to see what the community needs and what we have to offer them,” she said.
The January CNA course is already full, but registration is open for the CNA and Dementia courses starting March 23.
Source: Kokomo Tribune