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New CNA course offers hands-on look at health care career

Kelloggsville — When senior Ash Dunbar saw that her high school was going to be offering a certified nursing assistant class, she didn’t think twice about signing up.

“It was just something that I was really excited about,” Ash said, adding that many of her family members are in the health field working as CNAs or medical assistants. 

“I didn’t realize I wanted to do this, but I’m really excited that I took this opportunity because it was so much fun. I was excited every single day. It didn’t matter if it was online, that we had to write stuff, take tests. … I was just happy to be able to start doing it.”

John Linker, academic dean of students and worked-based coordinator, said he can attest how happy Ash was in the CNA program.

“It didn’t matter if we were in the hallway or whatever, I would say ‘Hey how did it go today?’ and whether it was online work or getting thrown up on, the response usually was ‘Dude, it was awesome,’” Linker recalled. 

Filling a Need

Ashley Bauer, a registered nurse who has worked in a number of care facilities, had seen firsthand the staffing crisis in those organizations. About two years ago, she opened the Center for Medical Training in Grandville to provide nurse aide programs such as CNA training. 

Bauer said she learned that the Kent Career Tech Center had suspended its CNA program a couple of years ago. The Tech Center periodically assesses its programs to gauge student interest and need within a specific field. Though CNA was suspended, medical assistant and nurse tech courses were added to its program. 

Knowing there was a need for CNAs, Bauer said she decided to see if any of the schools in her area would be interested.

“We’ve always had a lot of students interested in health careers,” Linker said, adding that health careers seemed to be the No. 1 field of interest. “Really, the only option up until this point was KCTC — which, they do a really good job, but they have (had) more and more applicants for the same amount of positions, so anything we can do to increase opportunities for students will do.”

When Bauer approached Linker about a possible CNA course at Kelloggsville, he started by asking graduating seniors if any were interested, he said. Once he determined interest, the high school moved forward to offer a pilot course the second semester, which started in January.

From left, senior twins Anna and Amie Nguyen, senior Ash Dunbar, Center for Medical Training owner Ashley Bauer and Kelloggsville’s John Linker, academic dean of students and work-based coordinator

Recognizing that high school students would not have had the real-world experience typical in her program, Bauer said she expanded her CNA course from 77 to 150 hours. 

The pilot program — online learning, classroom training and field experience in a local care facility — was initially only offered to seniors interested in nursing and the health fields, Linker said. Those in the course would earn an elective credit along with the opportunity to become certified through the state CNA credential exam. 

Depending whether there was classroom training, students would start their day at 7 a.m., an hour earlier than the regular high school start time, and be back at the high school by 11 a.m. for third hour.

Hands-on Career Exploration

Senior Amie Nguyen, who took the class with her twin, Anna, said the sisters were looking for a class that was flexible, since they were already taking AP courses. With its online instruction, the CNA course provided that flexibility to balance with their other classes, Amie said. 

“It also actually provided us with a bit of clinical experience,” said Anna, adding that both are looking to go into pre-med and will need clinical hours to get into medical school. “So we are stepping foot into the medical field before going to college.”

Ash said she hopes to work into a medical aide or nurse practitioner position.

‘I was excited every single day. It didn’t matter if it was online, that we had to write stuff, take tests … I was just happy to be able to start doing it.’

— Kelloggsville senior Ash Dunbar

The students agreed that one aspect they liked most was getting hands-on experience in a nursing facility. Amie said that “definitely opened our eyes” to the expectations and demands of the job, along with the highlights and the less pleasant aspects.

“Somebody has to deal with it,” Ash said. “I don’t really get freaked out about a bunch of stuff like that, which is kind of good for this type of work, because you are gonna have to deal with a bunch of nasties.”

Linker said plans are to offer the CNA course for both fall and winter semesters. The program is currently limited to seven students per semester, and will be open to juniors and seniors, Linker said.

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
Her motto of ‘always work hard’ leads to early graduation
Career makers at work

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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