CNA Program Preps BPTS Students For Med Career

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[Ed.’s note: This article is part of a continuing series leading up to the opening of the newly constructed Bossier Parish School for Technology and Innovative Learning, which will open Fall 2015.]

Story by Sonja Bailes, Bossier Parish Schools Public Relations Liaison

When Benton High School senior Shae Vines graduates, she will be a step ahead of her classmates when starting nursing school.

For the last year, she has taken the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Pharmacy Technician (Pharm Tech) courses at Bossier Parish Technical School and gotten practical, hands-on experience in both a nursing home and hospital setting.

Working side by side with CNAs, Vines takes vital signs, empties catheters, makes beds, bathes and dresses patients — whatever the need, she does it.

“I always wanted to go into the medical field,” Vines said. After taking Valerie Liles’ Introduction to Health Occupations at BPTS her junior year, she took her teacher’s advice and enrolled in the Pharm Tech course this year in addition to the CNA class.

“I knew it would help me in nursing school,” Vines said. “It’s a great way to see if it’s something you want to pursue as a future career.” She laughed, adding “Nothing makes me sick. I’ve become immune to all smells!”

“This is the first basic level of nursing school,” said Barbara Wortman, a Registered Nurse and CNA/Pharm Tech instructor at BPTS, who was keeping a watchful eye on her 18 students at the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport recently during their clinicals. “Students can learn more here in one day than in the classroom.”

The way the program works, Wortman explained, is high school seniors take Allied Health and Medical Terminology during the fall semester, which is a dual enrollment course that earns them five credit hours at Bossier Parish Community College. In the spring, students move from the classroom to the clinical setting, spending 100 hours at Pilgrim Manor Guest Care, Christus Schumpert Highland and the VA Medical Center, and acquire another four credit hours.

For four days and 10 hours per week, students observe surgeries, heart catheterizations, babies being born, dialysis, emergency room procedures; their experiences run the gamut. It is not an easy program, the instructors point out. Students are held to a higher standard and learn quickly to be responsible and respectful.

“Many of them find direction,” Liles commented. “Many don’t have a clue when they start, but then the light bulb goes off and they find their direction.”

Upon graduation, Liles said students are job ready as private sitters, to work in doctors’ offices, dialysis clinics. Yet a quarter of them go on to nursing school, like Jennifer Mulkey, a former BPTS student who became a Registered Nurse in 2012.  She said it helped immensely to go through the CNA program first.

“Anyone who thinks you don’t do CNA type of work each day is wrong, because you do,” Mulkey said.

She also commented how beneficial it was to have taken Pharm Tech.

“Knowing the medical jargon and dosage calculations, it was easier for me to transition because I’d already done that and it was familiar.” Mulkey added, “Dosage calculation was particularly a big help.”