Fourteen Liberty College and Career Academy students have taken their first steps into the medical field by earning their Certified Nursing Assistant certificates.
Precious Brown, Briana Burnett, Michaela Calvin, Tiffany Erickson, Miracle Fata, Michael Feliciano-Cruz, Dazja Haynes, Breanne Higley, Jazmine Lloyd, Tatiana Mojica, Kattie Smith, Mya Soto, Deja Toombs and Lauren Umholtz all completed the four required courses over two semesters, qualifying them to take the Georgia Medical Care Foundation’s CNA exam.
According to LCCA CEO Tom Alexander, the CNA is an entry-level medical credential that will allow the students to work in residential-care settings and doctors’ offices.
“For a lot of kids, it’s employment,” Alexander said. “They can go and start working and make considerably more than minimum wage.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a nursing assistant in 2012 was $24,400 per year, or $11.73 an hour.
Suzann Sauls, a registered nurse and one of two CNA instructors at the career academy, said that nursing assistants generally help with “activities of daily living,” such as bathing, dressing, changing, feeding and mobility skills.
“It’s very labor-intensive,” she said. “This certification gives them patient-care and bedside skills that they couldn’t otherwise get anywhere else.”
“It certainly helps identify those kids that think they want to do something in medicine,” Alexander added.
Sauls said she estimates nearly 85 percent of CNAs go on to pursue some type of medical career, “whether it be nursing, or staying in the CNA or patient-care technician (field) or some other route in health care.”
Alexander noted that LCCA offers another medical program — general medicine — that gives students an apprenticeship at a hospital, allowing them insight into the different fields of medicine and medical care.
“For any high-school student in the system that’s interested in any kind of medicine, these are the two programs we recommend,” he said.
“The cool thing about it is, it is immersive. Both of these two programs give the kids a good sense of what the behind-the-scenes stuff is in the hospital (and) in the nursing home,” Alexander continued.
He said his daughter completed LCCA’s nursing-assistant program and now works part-time at a nursing home in Statesboro, helping to pay her way through Georgia Southern University.
Alexander added that the career academy’s CNA program is “very competitive and always full,” which he said is reflective of the state of medical programs in higher-learning institutions across the board.
Sauls agreed, noting that many colleges have “500 or 600 students on a waiting list to get into a nursing program where they take 34, 96 or however big their program is.”
“Not only is there a shortage of practitioners, but because that shortage is there, fewer and fewer people want to be instructors, so it doesn’t make itself any better,” Alexander said.
According to the LCCA CEO, most of the students who earned their nursing-assistant certificates are seniors, though juniors have completed the certification as well.