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A Partnership for CNA Training.

Sara 0-Neill was a 20-year-old single mother who needed a break. She wanted to work but couldn't get a job without skills. She found her break at a free certified nurse assistant training program at Seabury Retirement Community in Bloomfield, Conn., a suburb of Hartford. Altogether, over 250 graduates of the program have received their state certificates and found employment. At Seabury students learn both the technical skills and people skills required to be caring CNAs.

"The program has meant a lot to me," says the now 24-year-old 0-Neill, who was hired as a CNA at Seabury upon completion of her training. "At the time I wasn't working, and there was no way I was going to be able to afford to go through school to be certified as a nurse's aide. The program gave me the opportunity to do that. Without that program I still wouldn't be a CNA, and I really enjoy my job."

"They have the will; they just need the motivation and someone to show interest in them," says Monica McDonald, APRN, who holds a master's degree in gerontological nursing and is a codirector and volunteer instructor of the program. She adds that 50% of Seabury's CNA students are single mothers who need help.

The CNA training program was begun for low-income individuals in Hartford who wanted to improve their lives. In 1994, Reverend Collin Bennett, vicar of St. Martin's Episcopal Outreach Mission Church in Hartford, envisioned an educational program for people to "help themselves to become productive members of society." He identified the need for an affordable Connecticut state-certified nurse assistant training program.

"He said there was a need especially in his parish, which was primarily West Indian," says Margie Sullivan, RNC, RHP, also a codirector of the program and vice-president of Health and Resident Services at Seabury, "He thought that perhaps there was a way he could connect with Seabury."

Seabury, an affiliate of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, is a 274-capacity, not-for-profit, interdenominational life care retirement community. Rev. Bennett asked for Sullivan's assistance to start a certified nurse assistant program that could be approved by the state of Connecticut. Sullivan and McDonald worked together with Rev. Bennett, organizing the program and satisfying the regulatory requirements.

Seabury conducts six to eight CNA training sessions per year. The programs by regulation must be 75 hours in length, but Seabury conducts 100-hour programs that last six to eight weeks per session. Students begin by learning the basics in a classroom at the church. There they study CNA skills in a sample resident room. After they learn such skills as taking a temperature, bathing, positioning, dressing and feeding, they are ready to practice these skills hands-on during clinical training at Seabury.

"Our Health Center residents participate as well as our staff with hands-on training," says Sullivan. Seabury partners each student with a staff member, and there are shared lectures and education programs. The residents benefit by having extra people who visit and take time with them. "We really enjoy the students being here," Sullivan adds. "The residents appreciate them and find them very caring."

The students also learn more than clinical skills at Seabury's CNA training program. "I think one of the things they really learn," says Sullivan, "is that a smile or a gentle touch and quiet visiting are very important parts of being a good nursing assistant."

Many of the students, particularly those who are West Indian, are accustomed to taking care of the elderly members of their own families. "I think a lot of the students might have elderlypeopleliving in their own homes," says Sullivan, "and they've benefited in that way, too."

After finishing the program, the students must take a national test to be placed on the registry. The students pay nothing to attend Seabury's program, although they must buy their books and uniforms. This is a small price to pay, according to Sullivan, who says that most CNA programs, especially those in Connecticut, cost more than $2,000.

St. Martin's Church provides funding for the program and receives donations, including those from Seabury. "They have a wish list," says Sullivan. "We've sent over walkers, wheelchairs and a bed--anything they need. We try to help support the program." McDonald and Sullivan dedicate all of their time on a voluntary basis, and McDonald is a member ofSt. Martin's parish. Both McDonald and Sullivan received certificates of appreciation from the mayor of Hartford for their work with the CNA training program. McDonald says that the "small" sacrifice she's made for her many volunteer hours is reduced sleep.

The waiting list of applicants for Seabury's CNA training program contains 200 names. The program was initially intended to service St. Martin's parish. Today anyone may apply, and most applicants are from the greater Hartford area. Program candidates must go through an application and interview process. "First of all," says Sullivan, "we're looking for someone who really is dedicated to wanting to work with seniors. Certainly we need someone who can relate well to them." Seabury also asks for personal references, and all applicants must have a high school diploma.

Of those who have made it through the application process and completed the course, many have been hired at Seabury, but most have found work in hospitals or other long-term care facilities in Connecticut. Some students go on to nursing programs, and Sullivan knows of one student who will attend medical school.

"They're so proud," says Sullivan. "I've been to many of the graduations, and the families are equally proud. One graduate could have up to 25 family members attending the graduation. They're handing them flowers. They're taking photos. There are little children involved and seniors involved. They're quite remarkable."

Even after they've graduated, McDonald's students still want more. In response, McDonald started an alumni club for Seabury-trained CNAs. "This is so they have a forum to come back to and can collaborate on job postings," says McDonald. "They can tell others what they find when they enter the job market and come back with suggestions. It helps them with their continued growth."

Although Rev. Collin Bennett's dream of creating a CNA program at Seabury came true before his eyes, he didn't live to see its fruition, having passed away over a year ago. "He was a remarkable, visionary gentleman," says Sullivan. Now the church is moving ahead, working to get funds to expand the program into an LPN program. They've already purchased a building in Hartford to use as an official training center. Seabury would also like to work with St. Martin's to develop a medical assistant program. "We want to expand what we can do to help the community," says Sullivan. "I think we've all benefited more than, or as much as, the students have. I've gotten so many rewards from doing this program."
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Title Annotation:certified nurse assistant
Author:Pine, Nancy
Publication:Nursing Homes
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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