First participants graduate from CNA pilot program

Release Date: 03/22/2018

Graduating from a unique TAMC pilot program for CNAs were, front from left:  Marissa Black, Bailey Getchell, Cintia Woods and Kelsey Larrabee. Taking part in the ceremony to congratulate them were, back from left:  TAMC President Greg LaFrancois; Barbara Ireland, TAMC associate vice president of nursing; Odette LaPointe, RN, TAMC nurse educator and nursing supervisor; Lacey Collin, RN,BSN, director of nursing at the Aroostook Health Center; and Kathy Miller, MSAD #42 Adult Education.

Aroostook County  -  As the Aroostook Medical Center struggled to find Certified Nursing Assistant (CNAs), who play a vital patient care role at both the hospital and at TAMC’s long-term and skilled care facility in Mars Hill, the question was raised, “Why don’t we don’t we grow our own?”  That concept took root and led to the development of a unique pilot program that recently concluded with the graduation of four new CNAs.
TAMC partnered with SAD #42 Adult Education to offer an accelerated program that would last only seven weeks.  The program was unique in several ways. First, classes met daily, Monday through Friday, for the entire day, as opposed to the traditional way the course has been offered one or two nights a week for an extended time period.  Because it would be a hardship for participants and not allow them to necessarily work while completing the program, TAMC took the unusual step of hiring these individuals as full-time, temporary employees. The hospital paid them an hourly wage while they were completing their training. 
Another unique part of the program was the breadth of experience the participants received.  CNA programs are typically geared toward the long-term care setting.  For this TAMC-led course, work experience and training took place both in the acute hospital and the long-term care setting, preparing participants to work in either type of location.
The pilot program began in January and the graduation ceremony was held on March 16. Successfully completing the program were:  Marissa Black of Easton, Bailey Getchell of  Presque Isle, Kelsey Larrabee of Mars Hill, and Cintia Woods of Presque Isle.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better first class,” said Barbara Ireland, associate vice president of nursing.  “These four women are all exceptional.  Their excitement and enthusiasm has re-energized the administrators and nurses who have worked with them.     
            That sentiment was echoed by Odette LaPointe, RN, the TAMC nurse educator who led the program.  “These four women exceeded our expectations as learners, and we are so proud of all the hard work and dedication they put into this experience,” she said. “It’s because of them we can say that this program was a success.”
            “We all started this class for different reasons, but we all walked away with something more,” said Larrabee as she spoke during the ceremony on behalf of her class.  “We learned about compassion and patience.  Those we worked with accepted us and made us feel welcome.”
            Larrabee explained that she grew up in a family where working in the medical field is a tradition, and she looks at this CNA training as a starting point for her ultimate goal of becoming a nurse.  “This amazing opportunity was presented, and I ran with it,” she said.
            Many times CNAs do have an ultimate goal of entering into nursing, and they are getting a great start down that career path by starting as a CNA, according to LaPointe.
“Being a CNA makes them a stronger candidate for nursing school.  They are learning how to work as a team, building communications and life skills, and getting exposure to technology such as our computer charting system,” she explained.  “Healthcare is an excellent career field. Not only is there long-term stability, since healthcare will always be needed, but it is also very rewarding on a personal level.”
The four graduates of this training program are all now certified in the State of Maine.  While they could take those skills and work anywhere they chose, all four opted to stay on at TAMC.  Two will be working at the hospital in Presque Isle and two at the Aroostook Health Center, TAMC’s long-term and skilled care facility in Mars Hill.
“When I was speaking to the group during a class, I was asked, ‘Why aren’t you requiring us to sign a contract to work here since you are paying to train us?’” recalled Ireland. “I told them it was because we want them to work here because they want to, not because they have to.” Ireland is thrilled that they have all chosen to join the TAMC team.
With the success of this pilot program, TAMC is looking to offer another session of the CNA training at the end of the summer.
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