Mt. Ararat Jr. Ariana Graybill knows the impact a Certified Nursing Assistant can have. She remembers visiting her great-grandfather in a long-term care facility and feeling frustrated with the inattentive care he sometimes received.
“It’s a huge job,” she says. “I just wanted to be that CNA that made a change.”
On Tuesday, Graybill and 18 classmates from Region 10 Technical High School in Brunswick celebrated the completion of the school’s CNA program with a pinning ceremony. The group members, who all took and passed the state of Maine’s certified nursing assistant exam earlier this month, have gone from nervous high schoolers to highly sought-after professionals, according to program instructor Joanne McMahon.
“It’s just the coolest thing to see where they are and what they’ve done with themselves,” McMahon said. “Watching them take care of their residents is just amazing.”
Students in the program split their time between Region 10 of Brunswick and their home schools of Mt. Ararat, Freeport, Brunswick and Harpswell Coastal Academy, McMahon said. They dedicate a portion of each day to classroom instruction, lab work, or clinical shifts at Horizons Living & Rehabilitation Center or Mid Coast Senior Health Center.
“Going into the Region 10 program, there’s definitely that little bit of nervousness,” said Freeport junior Andrew Miller. “You know that at the end of the year you will have your final exam which determines whether or not you get your license.”
But as students practice feeding, bathing and caring for their patients, they quickly develop confidence in their new skills, Miller said. While other certified practical nurse programs end after a few months, the one-year Region 10 course allows McMahon to devote more time to each topic.
“(McMahon) prepares you for anything you could possibly go through in this class and in the CNA field,” Graybill said. “She’s just a really good teacher, and I think that’s what makes this program so much more special than the others.”
Although the Maine Board of Nursing recently reduced the clinical training time required for CNA students from 70 to 40 hours, McMahon said she pushes her students to meet the old standards.
That makes them particularly attractive candidates for employers, who would otherwise have to spend time training new hires, said Carrie Pelletier, senior director of nursing at Mid Coast Senior Health.
“I’m really grateful that (Region 10) has continued with the maximum clinical hours they can put in,” said Pelletier, who called the certified practical nurse role “imperative” for the health care system. health. “They kind of have the upper hand because they’ve had enough time to really learn this skill of time management, where in 40 hours you just learn the real basics.”
This put McMahon students in pole position for jobs in an industry that is already in desperate need of workers.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 19,256 active CNAs are licensed to work in Maine.
While that number is growing, it’s still way off target for many care centers, according to Pelletier. Mid Coast Senior Health recently turned to expensive out-of-state travel CNAs because the center was only able to fill 40% of its available positions with permanent staff, she said. declared.
Maine’s aging population, coupled with the cracks in the economy exposed by the pandemic, have made the practical nursing course and other technical training programs an especially important key to the state’s future, said said Region 10 Superintendent and Director Paul Perzanoski.
“Here in Maine, we have a significant shortage of young people to be able to take over from people who are getting to the point where they are close to retirement,” he said. “It’s a very important pipeline that needs to be filled, especially in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Although they won’t be graduating from high school for another year, Graybill and Miller are already joining their classmates in filling out this pipeline. Both have part-time jobs as CNAs and plan to support themselves through community college as they pursue careers in healthcare.
“Everybody wants DACs,” McMahon said. “We get calls from all kinds of different facilities asking if we have anyone who wants a job. They are in the driver’s seat.
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