A head start: Mt. Vernon High School offers pathway for students to receive CNA license

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Mt. Vernon High School students now have the opportunity to receive their certified nurse assistant certification while still in high school.

Stan Wilkison

MVHS students have been traveling to either the Anderson Career Center or the Walker Career Center in Warren Township to take their Health Science I and Health Science II classes. Because of the high level of interest in the health care industry, MVHS Assistant Principal Stan Wilkison said it fills a need to offer the yearlong programs at MVHS rather than have students travel to the other locations. Three to five students each year would travel to the career centers to take the courses and earn their CNA certification, typically in the second class. This year, when MVHS offered the classes on campus, 15 students signed up for Health Science I. MVHS also changed the curriculum so that students could earn their CNA certification during Health Science I and then be able work for those rates while they obtain other certifications in Health Science II.

“We opted to (offer the certification) in Health Science I so then those students could get more experience, and two, earn that rate as they’re working during summer breaks or spring breaks or fall breaks,” Wilkison said. “Next year, the plan is to increase enrollment in Health Science I, and to those juniors who are enrolled in that program, we will offer Health Science II, which is considered a capstone.

“They can also use some of those class hours as work-based learning and earn the CNA rate and get more hands-on experience.”

Anderson Career Center, which allows the certification in Health Science II, plans to mirror MVHS’s curriculum next year so its students also can receive its CNA certification during Health Science I.

CNA certification testing for MVHS students in Health Science I will happen in April. Health Science I classes meet daily for three hours Wilkison said MVHS may move other classes to campus that are now offered at either Anderson or Walker career centers in house because it would allow the centers to open up enrollment to other students.

Students interested in health care are already taking advantage of the new program. Emily Rollo, a senior enrolled in the MVHS Health Science I program, said she has always been interested in health care as a career.

“But I was never for sure if it was right for me,” Rollo said. “When I heard about the CNA class, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to have a sort of test trial to see if this is really what I want to do.”

Rollo said her favorite part of the program was the clinical portion in the fall.
“In order to receive our CNA, we have to obtain a certain number of clinical hours. Getting to work alongside health care workers was an amazing experience,” she said. “I have learned the basic skills of a nurse, like (taking) blood pressure, pulse, respiration, etc. Knowing these skills, I feel more prepared to go into nursing school.”

Rollo said on her first day of clinicals, she said her biggest challenge was time management but that it was good preparation for college.

“This class takes up a large portion of your time, and it was hard adjusting to having a three-hour class every day and the workload that comes with that,” she said. “I learned to adjust to my schedule and kept reminding myself this is what college may be like, so it is good I am getting practice in now.”

Rollo said she plans to pursue a nursing career and eventually become a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant.

“I have always loved helping people even at a young age, so when I learned that there is a career field for people who enjoy helping others, I knew it was something I would be interested in,” she said. “This class has taught me what it takes to go into the health care field and what to expect in my career.

“Learning the basic skills of a nurse before college makes me feel very prepared for the future.”

Support from alumni

Mt. Vernon High School alumni also support the new CNA program at MVHS. Savannah Laker, a 2015 MVHS graduate, pursued a Bachelor of Nursing degree from IUPUI and graduated in 2019. She is pursuing her master’s degree in nursing education and said that giving students hands-on experience before college is a good idea.

“It allows prospective nursing students to decide if they like providing patient care before deciding to make it their career,” Laker said. “There are many people who become nurses without fully realizing all it entails to take care of someone. If this program were available when I was in school, I would have definitely pursued it.

“It provides hands-on experience that can be applied to nursing school and helps validate one’s decision on the career path they have chosen.”


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