College revives Certified Nursing Assistant program

Kenai Peninsula College is once again offering Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes after struggling to meet the state’s Board of Nurses requirements for instructors.

The six-credit course was revived for the fall semester and was filled to capacity at 10 students. The spring course already has four students going through the preregistration work for the class, according to Audrey Standerfer, the college’s CNA adjunct instructor and Kenai River Campus Student Clinic coordinator.

“The course had ended simply because the state redid the requirements for lecturers who are able to teach it,” Standerfer said. “They made more stringent requirements. … I sent my application to the state and was rejected at first for not meeting the qualifications but I sent an appeal letter to show how I met the qualifications and was approved.”

After receiving her approval, Standerfer began preparing plans for the class which guides students towards meeting all the state requirements for becoming a CNA.

“If you’re application is accepted to KPC, it doesn’t mean you’ve been accepted by the state,” Standerfer said.

A CNA is different from a nurse in that they can’t administer medication. They act as assistants to nurses by providing more intimate, personal care to help patients in their basic activities of life, such as bathing or dressing, and monitoring the patient’s health.

Working as a CNA is touted as a great entry-level position in the health care industry and according to the employment projections from the Bureau of Labor, the need for CNAs will increase by nearly 11 percent over the next ten years, with an estimated expected 2 million job openings each year.

“This semester students have been great and really diverse,” Standerfer said. “I have a grandmother and one that is fresh out of high school.”

The course guides students to meet all state requirements, including a minimum of 60 hours of classroom and lab instructions and 80 hours of clinical experience, which is done at the Central Peninsula Hospital. Classroom time is spent in the college’s CNA lab.

“That’s new, we never had that before,” Standerfer said. “I have a new lab complete with mannequins to practice on and a full-fledged classroom with my supplies.”

Standerfer isn’t the only one taking advantage of the lab.

Ruth Ann Truesdale of the Heritage Place, a continued care nursing facility owned and operated by Central Peninsula Hospital, also utilizes the lab to teach CNA classes. She offers two five-week programs a year, in January and midsummer, through Heritage Place and a separate program run with Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that allows high school seniors to work toward a CNA certification while still in high school.

“Our population is aging,” Truesdale said. “So whether it is in home-care services, in assisted living, long-term care facilities or acute care facilities, there is definitely a greater need (for CNAs).”

Truesdale said that especially in smaller communities, like those on the Kenai Peninsula, CNAs spend a lot of time dealing with death and dying, dementia and Alzheimer’s care — issues associated with aging.

“People need to feel more comfortable and exposed to these areas before getting into practice because they’ll get out there and won’t be prepared,” Trusedale said. “If you look at hospital admissions, or here at Heritage Place, the majority of people that they’re going to be taking care of over the age of 65.”

This growing demand is coupled with a lack of training opportunities in Alaska.

“Unfortunately, a lot of programs are being cancelled for a variety of reasons, whether it’s for lack of funding, of instructors or of facilities,” Truesdale said.

In August 2016, the Alaska Institute of Technology (AVTEC) Anchorage campus closed its doors, thus ending their CNA programs which had taught about 80 candidates a year.

Standerfer said she expects her class to grow, and would like to offer more classes.

“From the responses we’ve received, I don’t anticipate any problems continuing this course,” Standerfer said.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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