Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Training America's Future Caregivers Early

In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, local high school students are getting early exposure to the long term care world while training to be certified nursing assistants (CNAs).  The program at Jackson Hole High School is a free, semester-long course taught by the school nurse and educator Annette Eastman.  Five of the program’s students have spent 36 hours at St. John’s Living Center, a skilled nursing care center, as part of the certified nursing assistant program.

To complement their hours spent training on-the-job, students must also take written and practical tests in order to officially receive their Wyoming Certified Nursing Assistant licenses. “The fact that they actually get one of the pre-requisites completely in high school is a huge advantage, and it saves them a lot of money”, Eastman says.  The high school program is free of cost, and so far, 31 of the program’s teens have successfully become certified nursing assistants.  Many of these teens dream of becoming nurses or doctors in the future.
In addition to hands-on experience and skills training, students get a real taste of the health care field.  Recent high school graduate Karen Casillas says that she has learned to treat patients like family, adding, “One of these days, we will be them, and we want them to have the best care.”

With an increasing number of baby boomers reaching age 65 and older, long term care services—and caregivers trained in the field—are in higher demand now than ever before.  According to the Administration on Aging, there will be about 72.1 million older persons in 2030, more than twice their number in 2000.  Programs such as the one at Jackson Hole High School could provide an additional means towards training the numbers of long term care professionals needed to meet this rising demand for long term care.  Subsequently, the implementation of such programs for training young people requires strong leadership and skill on the part of instructors and teachers.

AHCA/NCAL has a number of education resources for training America’s next generation of CNAs and skilled nursing caregivers.  Check out our bookstore to find resources for those interested in teaching or participating in nursing assistant programs.

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