In Central Peninsula Hospital’s Denali Conference Room on Friday, families celebrated graduates of the hospital’s Certified Nursing Assistant program.
During the ceremony, Chief Executive Officer Shaun Keef told the graduates that they were “the future of our health care system,” saying that he got his start in medicine as a CNA 30 years ago.
As the name implies, CNAs perform a variety of tasks to aide in nursing care as needed. Course Coordinator Ana Monyahan said that they are the eyes and ears of nurses and physicians. They take vitals, keep patients clean, direct exercise, directly assist nurses and even “just sit and hold a hand.”
Chief Operating Officer Karen Scoggins said that CNAs are “the front lines of nursing,” and spoke about the value of seeing new CNAs trained locally at the hospital.
“A few years ago, we were in a really tough spot with CNAs. We couldn’t figure out what to do, how to help our organization grow,” she said. “We really needed to do something here and grow our own people that are already here committed to our community — help train and support people to be able to achieve this level of education.”
One of the graduates, Kenneth Coghill II, said that he had just graduated from high school in May — he graduated from the CNA program in June.
“I’ve always been passionate about health care. I knew this was the first step, that I could get my foot in the door,” he said. “My end goal is to be a nurse practitioner in oncology.”
He said the class was well taught, each week learning skills — via lecture and via hands-on learning — and then getting out onto the actual floor of the hospital for practical experience.
Monyahan said that participants enter the program with no experience or other training — only a high school diploma. To get in, they applied for a job vacancy. They were employed before the start of the course and paid to participate in it.
Over five weeks, Monyahan said, they spend 60 hours in the classroom and more than 100 on skills and clinical training.
“Within a few weeks, they take the boards, pass the boards and become certified nursing assistants,” she said.
Each of the graduates was “pinned” at the conclusion of the ceremony. The pins, Monyahan explained, are a tradition that date back to the 1860s, when Queen Victoria pinned Florence Nightingale for her efforts as a military nurse. Graduates of nursing schools and those who enter the profession are pinned.
The program launched at the hospital in late 2022, developed from a similar program that had been running at Heritage Place during the COVID-19 pandemic, Education Director Rachael Verba said. That was in response to an identified staffing shortage at the hospital. So far three classes have been run — completed in December, May and June — producing 15 trained CNAs of 15 enrolled students.
Those CNAs have already made an impact on staffing at the hospital. Verba said open positions have been filled and shifts aren’t being left open.
Monyahan said the influx of new CNAs has allowed the hospital to reduce the ratio of CNAs to patients — which allows for greater patient care.
The next class is set to start in November, and Monyahan said openings should begin appearing online this week.
For more information about Central Peninsula Hospital, including job openings, visit cpgh.org.