Methodist Student Nursing Assistant Program Offers Free Training, Opportunity To Build Foundation for Career in Health CarePublished: Jan. 6, 2022
Becky Leslie, CNA, has been a nursing assistant for over two decades, but she’ll never forget her first day on the job.
Only hours before her first shift at a nursing home, one of her patients passed away. It was “a sink or swim moment,” she said. But she had support from her coworkers, and as she cared for the patient’s family that day, a blend of instinct and training kicked in.
“It was one of the harder things a nursing assistant has to do,” said Leslie, who now works on the Methodist Hospital Short Stay Unit. “But I felt like I could be part of something. It was scary, but I could see the beauty even in a rough situation, and that I could make a difference.”
“The Heart of This Organization”
Nursing assistants like Leslie are crucial to the smooth operation of hospitals as well as skilled care, assisted living and home health settings. Their duties include checking vital signs, assisting with basic medical procedures and helping patients with personal care and other daily activities.
“It’s just the simple things,” Leslie said. “We’re the front line. We’re helping them bathe, seeing their body, noticing changes from day to day. There have been many times over the years where I’ll go into a room and it’s like, ‘Hey, something is off.’ And I’ll alert the nurse.”
Methodist Hospital’s staff development nurse for nursing assistants put it simply.
“We can’t run this hospital without nursing assistants,” said Jenny Borer, MSN, RN, GERO-BC, a former nursing assistant herself. “The nursing assistants really are the heart of this organization.”
And Methodist Health System needs more like Leslie – currently, it has over 80 open nursing assistant positions. In an effort to fill the gap, Methodist Hospital has partnered with Nebraska Methodist College and Methodist Hospital Foundation to offer a free nursing assistant training program.
SNA Program Basics
The Student Nursing Assistant (SNA) Program begins with five weeks of training online, in the classroom and in the hospital. After successful completion of the course, participants agree to work as a nursing assistant at Methodist Hospital for two years – gaining experience and enjoying bonuses after reaching certain milestones.
For Hali Myles, it was the perfect opportunity.
“I’ve been looking for a career for a while,” said Myles, who became a mother in May. “I wanted a change of scenery from fast food jobs, restaurants and things like that. I’m looking for something with stability that will always be there with room to grow.”
After starting the program this fall, she was placed on the oncology unit at the hospital. She completed her training in December and will begin working after passing her state exam.
“It’s been a really big weight off my shoulders,” she said. “When I found out that I was accepted, I cried. Now, I’ll know for sure that I’ll have a job for two years.”
The program can lead to a world of possibilities, said Leslie, whose initial training was paid for by the nursing home that hired her. Methodist employees are eligible for continuing education, tuition reimbursement and other benefits.
“Whether you’re a career CNA like I’ve been or you plan to go on to become a nurse, a doctor or a respiratory therapist, it’s a very good opportunity and will build a good foundation,” she said. “You learn a lot. I’ve been doing it for 24 years, and I can honestly say I learn something every day.”
Myles is just beginning her career, but she said the SNA program has changed her outlook.
“This program has shown me that hope is not lost for myself,” she said. “Now I can actually look toward the future and think about what I want to do.”
“There’s Happiness in Helping Others”
The work of a nursing assistant isn’t without its challenges, Leslie said.
“The job isn’t for the faint of heart at times,” she said. “The job itself is hard – physically and emotionally. But I think that even in those challenges, it’s all in how you learn from them and what you gain for the next time.”
And the rewards certainly outweigh any challenges.
“There’s happiness in helping others,” Leslie said. “I love the opportunity to be there for people in a moment where it’s more difficult. And just the human element of it – being a part of the patient’s experience.”
Borer agrees, and she sees the same desire in students completing the SNA program.
“That’s why we’re all in health care,” she said. “We want to care for people. We want to make a connection with patients.”