Students get an EDGE

Charter school students receive on-the-job training to earn certified nursing assistant certificate

Putnam EDGE students are hitting the floors with nursing professionals, getting an early start on a workforce certification previously not offered in Putnam County high schools.

“It’s scary, but rewarding,” said Nalana Kassler, a 12th-grade certified nursing assistant student at Putnam EDGE High School. “You’re helping people who can’t help themselves.”

According to EDGE charter high school Director Lisa Parsons, EDGE is the only high school in Putnam County to offer a certified nursing assistant course.

Since EDGE has a Tuesday-Friday class schedule, the nine nursing assistant students spend Mondays fulfilling their clinical experience requirements at Crestwood Nursing Home in Palatka. 

“The students are doing whatever the (certified nursing assistants) are doing and observing,” said Gladis Baynard, course clinical instructor. “We want them to be prepared and know what’s required to pass the state exam.”

To earn certification, course administrator Melissa Arrants said, students are required to pass a state exam after completing 80 hours of didactic instruction and 40 hours of clinical experiences that include 20 hours of long-term care clinical instruction in a licensed nursing home or long-term care facility.

In addition, Arrants said, students must complete a minimum of 16 hours of resident interaction training prior to any direct contact with a facility resident.

On Monday, during the students’ second clinical experience, students were learning how to read vital signs and give patients baths. A certified nursing assistant is assigned to each student, guiding the students as they go about daily duties. 

“We have them training with different people each time because everyone does things differently,” Baynard said. “I’m by the book. It’s my job to make sure they are trained the right way. They have to stay focused.”

Kacey Christian, a 12th-grader taking the course, said she’s learning some procedures have to be adjusted based on a patient’s needs. 

“Our (certified nursing assistant) shows us the way she does things and then how we’re supposed to do it for (the state certification exam),” Christian said. “We have to make sure we’re doing it right. It’s not all in the book.”

Each student, Baynard said, is taught to always put patients first. 

Christian and her partner Monday, 12th-grader Emily Anderson, said Baynard was their patient during a recent clinical experience at Southern Therapy. 

But knowing Baynard did not make the experience less critical, Anderson said. 

“It was worse,” Anderson said. “We knew she would be watching to make sure we did everything right.”

Christian said the most difficult portion of the clinical experience is keeping up with each patient’s needs. 

“There’s a lot of different situations,” she said. “And not knowing how they will react to you (is intimidating).”

Qua’darrius McCurdy, a 12th-grader, is the only male in the EDGE certified nursing assistant course. Because he is a male, Baynard said, McCurdy has to be mindful of patients being uncomfortable with a male bathing them and proceeding with other duties.

“Qua’darrius is very eager to learn and wants to do everything,” Baynard said. “He moves around more because some patients are more comfortable with a female. We have to respect patients’ privacy.”

In the class’ second week of clinical experience at Crestwood, Christian said she feels more familiar with certified nursing assistant duties, but finds herself becoming emotional as she familiarizes herself with the patients. 

“We’ve met a lot of good people,” Anderson added. “You get attached easily.”

Arrants said the students have four more 8.5-hour clinical days at Crestwood. Their allied health class will continue through the year, but the nursing assistant portion of the class ends in December. 

If students are 18 in December, they could take their state exam for certified nursing assistant. Students who are not yet 18 could take the state exam upon graduation. 

“The state requirement is a student must be 18 or have graduated from high school,” Arrants said. 

This is the first year EDGE has offered the certified nursing assistant course.

Baynard said she’s confident students will be ready to take the state exam after their clinical experiences. 

“In class, we can use each other as props,” Anderson said. “This is actual experience. I think we’ll be ready.”

Palatka Daily News

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