RUMFORD — Students in the Region 9 Certified Nursing Assistant program learn far more than how to give a bed bath or back massage. The program is an entrance into many fields of healthcare, a career path with job security and rewarding opportunities. As the American population ages, the need for healthcare workers will increase.
For instructor Wendy Low, who is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, it’s a wonderful opportunity for students who are serious about healthcare.
Low said, “The real life interactions with patients, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology give students a wonderful opportunity to experience the healthcare setting. Students in this program have gone on to work as CNAs and/or continue their education for degrees in medical assistant, medical transcription, nursing, radiology, occupational therapy, pre-med and many other programs. Last year, 11 out of 12 of the graduating seniors went on to continue their education.”
Dirigo junior Brittney DeRoche chose the program because “I wanted to become a RN [registered nurse] and it would give me some good background information and good experience.”
“I want to be a paramedic,” said Lauren Calden, another Dirigo junior. “I knew that this program would help get me started in the medical field. I love taking care of people and making them feel better.”
Telstar senior Rachel Wheeler mentions yet another career path. “The CNA program would be a beneficial step in my plan to become a nurse practitioner.”
In terms of what students like about the program, two themes emerge – the teacher and the hands-on approach to learning.
“Wendy really knows when to get serious with all of us but we can still have fun,” said Telstar senior Taylor Savage. “She helps us when we need it and connects with us on a personal level.”
Wheeler added, “Mrs. Low is a fantastic teacher. She makes things interesting but challenging. It is really great to know that the things we learn in her class are applicable to real life situations.”
“My favorite thing is how much fun we have in class, and how much we learn while having fun,” said Cassandra Dumond, a Dirigo senior.
Grace Hebert likes that the program “is not just all lectures and book work, it’s a lot of hands on work too.” She is a junior at Dirigo.
The students gain experience in two ways. The classroom has a laboratory complete with hospital beds and full-size manikins. The students learn skills in the lab. Then when they are ready, they transfer those skills to “real life” experience in the clinical setting at Rumford Community Home or Rumford Hospital.
Upon completion of this intense, one-year program, students are eligible to take the Maine State CNA exam. They also earn CPR and first aid certification.
Mountain Valley senior Makaila Conley said, “I hope to be successful in this program, so after the program is done, I can get a job as a CNA and go to college to further my education.”
Hebert added, “What I hope to get out of the program is not only becoming a CNA, but also developing good work ethics and skills, as well as people skills.”
Dirigo junior Hannah Dorion hopes to use her skills to land “a good paying job and work up to be a neonatal nurse and work with babies.”
Even though the CNA program requires hard work and dedication, all of the students would gladly recommend it to their peers.
“I would say if you’re interested in the medical field, aren’t afraid of a challenge, and have a strong stomach, then absolutely go into the CNA program,” Hebert said.
Samantha Cummings goes one step further and recommends the program “even if they weren’t sure if they want to go into the nursing field.” She is a Mountain Valley senior.
Finally, MVHS Junior Nikki Trenoweth adds, “I would recommend this program. I would say it’s loads of work but you get something out of it that you can keep with you for life.”
If a student is interested in learning more about the program, contact Region 9 for a day-long tour. In addition to high school students, Low also teaches adult education classes.