CRISFIELD — The first group of seven students in TidalHealth’s new Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA) program are in the classroom, in partnership with the Somerset County Board of Education, at the Somerset Technical High School in Westover and in clinical manager proctored rotations at the Alice B. Tawes Nursing Home at TidalHealth McCready Pavilion in Crisfield.
The inaugural class began its studies August first, just a few short weeks after the program, designed to address shortages, obtained approval and accreditation by the Maryland Board of Nursing following a year of development.
All students were hired as full-time team members at TidalHealth, allowing them to earn an income while learning a skilled trade through the hybrid program.
“The most exciting part of this whole journey is that we get to help individuals in the communities we serve, who may not have had another resource, realize their dreams of entering healthcare,” said Rachel Bomar, MHR, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Employee Relations Specialist at TidalHealth. “The whole campus is abuzz with excitement over starting our own program and removing barriers for residents of Somerset County.”
The TidalHealth Nursing Assistant Program is a six-week educational plan, including 40 hours of clinical experience, where students are introduced to employment opportunities in the healthcare field. This educational plan incorporates knowledge and skills in medical terminology, communications, anatomy and physiology in disease processes and related procedures. Students will have the opportunity to obtain certification as a CNA or a GNA at its completion.
Aubrey Pastula, 24, of Marion Station, previously worked at the Tawes Nursing Home as an activity aide. She’s excited to have the opportunity to return, become financially stable and well positioned on a reliable career path. “I’m a people person and a people pleaser who enjoys helping others get well and feel better about themselves,” she said.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to make a better life for my daughter and myself, and I love that it challenges me to think outside the box.”
The program provides TidalHealth with a self-directed pipeline of CNA and GNA students and the ability to customize the experience relevant to their daily work environments. That results in better care for residents and patients.
CNAs and GNAs are responsible for providing non-certified patient care and providing much needed assistance to the clinical staff in those areas. They help with distributing snacks and hydration, making beds, stocking carts, tidying up resident areas, answering call bells, and providing nonphysical assistance. They also help transport residents to and from activities, assist and participate in activities with residents and help with sanitizing equipment. This allows certified and licensed staff members to concentrate on the physical care that residents require.
An added benefit from this inaugural class training at TidalHealth’s Tawes Nursing Home in Crisfield is that four of the seven students are from there. Desiree “Desi” Dennis is among them.
Struggling, financially, to find a way to become recertified, the TidalHealth program offered her a “right on time” opportunity. “The medical field is always growing and improving,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that team on the frontline of medical care making a difference?”
The 23-year-old mother of two first became interested in helping others after her grandmother suffered a stroke, and she saw firsthand how important a CNA was in her care. “I swore that day that I would be in the medical field helping people and giving back to others like that CNA did for my grandmother and me,” she said.
TidalHealth plans to expand its CNA/GNA Nursing Assistant program to 16 students in subsequent classes. Eighty applicants have already expressed interest in the next session coming up in October. The health system will also support through Workforce Development programs any CNA or GNA wishing to further their nursing careers or their work in other allied health professions.
“While clinical experience is helpful, it’s not required,” added Bomar. “This is an entry-level training program designed to assist adults who may not have the ability to attend this type of a program otherwise.”
To learn more about the Nursing Assistant Program and upcoming class sessions, regularly visit the Careers page at tidalhealth.org.