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Offering a "Step Up" for Troubled Teens.

For some, the teenage years are not always--or even sometimes--a carefree, idyllic rite of passage. Many young adults must deal with far more serious issues, such as financial hardship, family problems or lack of direction. These situations can be overwhelming to teens trying to step into adulthood and plan their futures.

Because there is always a need for skilled, compassionate professionals in nursing homes, Lawrence Gelfand, executive vice-president of The Daughters of Israel Care for the Jewish Elderly and Disabled in West Orange, New Jersey, established a facility-based Healthcare Academy, a training program aimed at providing healthcare career paths for disadvantaged and underrepresented youth. The Academy targets African-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican-American and Native American teens in the West Orange area for this training.

A collaborative effort by The Daughters of Israel (DOI), Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, participating high schools and community organizations, the Healthcare Academy offers staff-supported, on-the-job experience and mentoring for high school students in sophomore through senior years. Students receive training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and in our certified nurse aide program, which allows them to work in the healthcare environment while still in high school. Once they have achieved certification, these students can earn a higher wage than paid by most traditional youth-oriented jobs, enabling them to set aside money for college.

The facility also offers summer employment, college tours and Scholastic Aptitude Testing (SAT) preparation courses to give them a head start in pursuing their academic goals.

Eligibility for this program requires that students have a keen interest in a health-related career, a good academic record and a recommendation by a teacher or counselor. Admission of those meeting the requirements is on a first-come, first-served basis. There are currently 55 students enrolled in the program and, because of its popularity, there is a waiting list.

The faculty consists of DOI nurses, recreation specialists, social workers and administrators who present a curriculum covering topics such as resident rights and losses, infection control, fire safety, mentoring (its process and goals) and recreation. Last year's workshop series focused on holistic healthcare, yoga and dance, chiropractic care, art therapy, tai chi and HIV/AIDS. By exploring topics such as these, our students are exposed to a wide variety of career options along the healthcare continuum.

To widen their educational horizons and encourage higher education, the Healthcare Academy provides college tours and shows how to correctly complete college applications. Finally, to round out their Academy experience and encourage cultural competence, the students are encouraged to attend various theatrical, dance, music and art events.

Case history. Mike had recently arrived from Senegal and spoke very little English. During his first year at the Academy, he kept to himself By the end of the year his attendance was suffering and his status at the Academy was in jeopardy. When asked about his difficulties, Mike explained that he had taken a part-time job to raise money to help bring his sister to the United States. Because he wanted to remain active in the Academy, he was appointed as a DOI dayroom attendant/feeder on evenings and weekends. During the summer he worked as a physical therapy assistant.

By his second year at the Academy, Mike was a seasoned DOI employee. Friendly with the staff and familiar with the facility, he went on to complete the CNA certification course and became the first Academy member hired in that position at Daughters of Israel. While at the Academy, he expressed interest in neurosurgery. Now, while pursuing his medical degree, he continues to work at this facility.

Another benefit of enrollment is the tuition assistance/ scholarship programs available through the Healthcare Academy:

Case history. Ann, having joined the program in her sophomore year, had perfect attendance and excellent grades until her junior year, when her parents divorced and she had to take a job. The pro gram director helped her with time management, and then with her college application to Drew University when Ann expressed doubts she would be able to qualify. She was accepted and became one of the first recipients of an Academy full-tuition scholarship awarded by the Johnanette Wallerstein Institute. She is now in her junior year.

The Healthcare Academy creates a domino effect of positive outcomes. Residents and staff receive assistance from young people trained to help with a variety of activities. The students serve as volunteer assistants in physical therapy, recreation, dental, dietary and transportation. In the recreation department, they engage residents in informal, fun activities that allow them time to develop a bond. The students' eagerness and willingness to learn put a refreshing spin on tasks that might be boring or repetitive to the more seasoned healthcare professional.

Many students continue to inquire about "their" residents and often visit them when they're on duty; the residents thrive on the special attention and ask about a student when he or she is not around. Also, because the students free up staff, residents receive a prompter response to their needs from staff professionals.

The Healthcare Academy at Daughters of Israel is proud to have received the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) Community Award (Youth Category) for the year 2000. The dedication of our staff, the encouragement of our residents and the motivation of our students have made this a win-win program for everyone involved.

Thandi James is the director of the Healthcare Academy at Daughters of Israel, West Orange, New Jersey. For further information, phone (973) 731-5100, ext. 258, or fax (973) 731-6582.

Funding for the Healthcare Academy is provided by:

The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey

Grotta Foundation for Senior Care

The United Way of Essex and West Hudson

The Johnanette Wallerstein Institute

Irvington Board of Education

Merck Company Foundation

Community Foundation of New Jersey

The Valley Foundation, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Healthcare Academy training program offered by The Daughters of Israel Care for the Jewish Elderly and Disabled
Author:James, Thandi
Publication:Nursing Homes
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:963
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