Seven Weeks to a CNA

CNA students practice checking blood pressure in the CNA lab
Rebecca A. Eckland

On any given day, students in the TMCC Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program learn and hone the hands-on skills they need to succeed in this challenging but rewarding profession.  These skills include learning to measure a patient’s blood pressure and temperature, and to clean and feed a patient who is unable to do this for themselves. For many of these students, the CNA is the first step into a career in the medical profession. 

This is true for students Danelle Welsh and Micaela Piper who enrolled in the CNA program this spring per the requirements of the radiology and nursing programs, respectively. While some of what they encountered was expected, what they didn’t expect was to find a hands-on learning community that is not only supporting them on their journey to become medical professionals, but that is showing them insights into why this particular line of work is as difficult as it is rewarding. 

“Honestly, I came to this class dreading it,” Piper admitted. “But now I’m thinking about getting my CNA certification after I complete the class. It has changed my view on the entire profession.”

Welsh, who wants to become a radiology technician, also sees the value in a class that teaches you how to be a hands-on caregiver. “I was also nervous coming in here because I never even thought about being a certified nursing assistant because I have always been so focused on radiology. But this class is so hands-on, you really bond with your classmates. When we went to [do clinical work] at the long-term care facility, it was definitely an experience that I will take with me moving forward.” 

Laying a Solid Foundation with the CNA

Students in the CNA program have been completing their clinical rotations in long-term care facilities, helping older patients to complete daily life tasks. While these skills include physical, hands-on work, students also learn how to communicate effectively with patients, and using what are called “indirect skills” to assist patients, which include an awareness of dignity issues, infection prevention, empathy, compassion, the importance of choice and the quality of life.

“It’s really important to remember how you would feel if you were in that position?” This mindset is essential for medical personnel, and Piper believes, is setting her up for a successful lifelong career as a nurse. “I don’t think I’d be the best nurse I could if I didn’t learn how to have that connection with patients that working as a CNA provides.”  

Especially during COVID-19, working as a CNA is not only providing patients with the hands-on care they need but also that necessary human connection that is lacking given the past year with social distance regulations which often kept family members apart, especially those in long term care.  TMCC students like Welsh and Piper not only help patients complete daily tasks like sitting up, walking, or eating, they also provide emotional support simply because they are there. 

“It’s nice to be able to be that ray of sunshine for someone,” said Welsh, who noticed that even asking a patient how they were could be the words that brightened that person’s day. 

Seven Weeks to a CNA

If all of this sounds like a rewarding career that you can kick-start after only a semester of training, we have great news for you: although the summer sessions are already full, starting Fall 2021, you can earn your CNA in just seven weeks. The new streamlined curriculum is intended to place students in professional settings where these skills are in high demand, and the possibility of securing a position after completing the program is basically guaranteed.

The 7-week program will only accept cohorts of up to 15 students. “This really ensures that students get a lot of personalized attention,” said Susan Bluhm, Program Coordinator for the CNA Program. “This new iteration of the program really focuses on the nuts and bolts of this profession. We will learn skills in the classroom sessions, then apply them in our lab and finally apply them in real-life scenarios through the clinical rotations.”

Although even Bluhm admits the job may not be easy, she said that the rewards are many. “Hospitals and care facilities are in desperate need of CNAs, especially in our area,” she said. 

Another perk of the CNA program? It offers students a supportive community where they support each other through the learning process. For Piper, the entire experience has changed her perspective on what it means to be a medical professional. “I want to be a CNA. I’m very surprised that I want to do this. I still want to continue to the Nursing Program—that hasn’t changed—but I definitely want to work as a CNA for a little while. This class changed everything.” 

Welsh and Piper advise prospective students in the CNA to have an open mind and to realize that the skills you learn are not necessarily limited to medical spaces: these skills could also help you care for a family member in need.  And, just think: in only seven weeks you, too, can have a career that literally changes lives. 

For more information, contact the Certified Nursing Program at 775-824-8640.