IPS offers new CNA program for students at Crispus Attucks

INDIANAPOLIS - Students at Crispus Attucks could land a job in the medical field before ever graduating high school. The new program is part of Indianapolis Public Schools' plan to reinvent the district's high schools and offering students more college and career-themed academics.

A clinical nursing assistant, or CNA, is an entry-level job into the nursing industry, which has a big need for more people working in the field. According to Dorothy Gomez, Ph.D., RN, the nursing industry needs to an additional 3.4 million more nurses by the year 2022 to replacing retiring nurses and an aging population.

Gomez said she's on board with getting students interested in the medical field at a younger age, as it could help grow the workforce down the road.

“Get a CNA and get exposed to the healthcare field with the hope is that will spark your interest in nursing as a career," Gomez said. "Then you can apply to undergraduate programs to get that baccalaureate degree or associates degree in nursing."

Gomez added that CNAs should know that doing the clinical work is just the start to the school work they'll face in college when trying to get that next degree in nursing. Students need a strong science and math background to earn a four-year degree.

The CNA program at the high school is part of a recently approved district plan, called Reinventing IPS High Schools. The new take on education is already in place at Crispus Attucks High School and a couple other district buildings, which offers choice programs in fields Indianapolis and central Indiana need most to adequately support a workforce. The remaining high schools will have their own choice programs beginning at the 2018-2019 school year.

Crispus Attucks is the Health Sciences Academy. Along with nursing, students can take courses tied to biomedical sciences, health informatics and physical therapy.

“The student's goal here in the nursing pathway is to earn their CNA certification," said Meehee Smith, the career academy coordinator at IPS said. "They can take that further, even if it is additional education or enrolling in a true BSN program, but this is their first step to further education or to be able to work while going to school, as well.”

For the nursing program, students can begin taking classes in that pathway beginning their junior year. Along with typical classroom assignments, students in these classes also practice clinical work they'd do as a CNA on one another. After fall break, students will begin logging real clinical hours towards becoming a CNA. The Indiana State Department of Health requires 75 clinical hours before a student can take the CNA exam.

Clinical work will take place at area American Senior Communities facilities in Indianapolis.

The students' work in the senior living businesses will be exactly the same as a college-aged student who is also trying to earn a CNA.

“They will shadow our nurses on staff and they’ll assist with daily care," said Amy Wimbleduff, the community nurse liaison at American Senior Communities, said.  "Hopefully they will pursue careers in nursing, as far as being an LP or RN. Being a CNA is a great start.”

American Senior Communities has also seen how difficult it can be to staff nurses. In fact, the company holds its own CNA program to try to attract nurses. It's also runs a program called "O2NE." It funds selected employees education if they want to pursue becoming a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse.

The CNA program can have up to 50 students a year at Crispus Attucks.

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