DOVER — As medical facilities face a swell in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, the Delaware National Guard is providing some much-needed assistance.
On Wednesday, over 30 Guard members gathered at Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus in Dover to begin their two-week training to become certified nursing assistants to aid medical facilities that are short-handed.
Two other groups commenced CNA courses at DelTech’s Georgetown and Wilmington campuses.
This comes just days after Gov. John Carney announced that Delaware would reenter a state of emergency, due to the winter surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
“As a whole, the Delaware National Guard, time and time again, have stepped up throughout this entire COVID-19 pandemic. So from testing, to vaccinations, to even hospitalization care, we have been there for the state in their time of need,” said DNG Director of Public Affairs Maj. Bernie Kale.
As of Wednesday, Delaware was averaging 2,515 new cases of COVID-19 per day, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. The state has also surpassed 600 coronavirus hospitalizations, compared to last year’s peak of 474. With those high numbers, Delaware hospitals have become overwhelmed, amid critical staff shortages.
With the surge of cases, Delaware medical facilities, such as Christiana Hospital, have eclipsed their inpatient bed capacity.
Guard members say they are ready to help.
“When I first joined the National Guard, I did not know something like this was possible, but what you prepare for in the National Guard is that you’re prepared for anything,” said 1st Lt. Antwan Miller of Magnolia, who is undergoing the training.
Citizen soldiers and airmen began their CNA training period with an orientation Wednesday, and after daily sessions at DelTech — ending with two days of clinical training — they will be ready to assist doctors and nurses in just two weeks.
A typical CNA training course spans about six to 10 weeks, but due to this task’s critical nature, the class has been shortened.
And, though some DNG members may know basic medical-assistance skills like CPR, the curriculum they will be learning over the two weeks is much more complex.
Volunteers will learn how to, among other tasks, answer call buttons, handle patient issues, communicate with nurses and doctors, and transport patients.
DelTech’s administration was more than willing to help fill an important need.
“That’s our mission. I mean Delaware Tech, we serve the community. We serve the workforce. When the workforce has a need, we’re ready to respond,” said associate vice president for workforce development Paul Morris.
Once National Guard members complete the CNA course, as well as their clinical training, they will be deployed to medical facilities statewide that need the most assistance.
With the omicron variant expected to hit its peak toward the end of January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new CNAs should arrive just in time.
“I never thought in my lifetime that I’d be a certified nursing assistant,” said Lt. Miller. “But I’m very happy to be here.”