First CNA course in Hesston creates new opportunities for community partners

CNA lab

This spring, the school week looks a little different for 10 Hesston High students who are taking a Certified Nursing Assistant class (CNA) through Hesston College in a new partnership between the college and the high school.

It was easy for the neighboring institutions to recognize the other as a natural partnership opportunity. The high school has the student candidates that are often interested in CNA training and job options, while the college offers a highly-respected nursing program in an area rich with care facilities and CNA positions. Everyone was interested in meeting the needs and interests of students in the community.

“The conversation started between me and Denise Goevert [HHS business teacher] informally more than a year ago,” said Becky Bartell, director of Hesston College’s nursing program. “Denise was familiar with our strong nursing program and I was looking at ways to engage with Hesston High School to keep students local rather than them having to travel out of town for CNA classes.”

Through discussions and planning among college and high school faculty and administrators, as well as consultation with Schowalter Villa, Hesston College put together a CNA training course approved by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services and Hesston High filled it with students.

CNA lab
Hesston High School students enrolled in the Hesston College CNA class work with a patient in the sim lab.

It is truly a community effort for community gain.

For an hour or two three mornings a week, nine Hesston High juniors and one senior are on the Hesston College campus to learn the policies and practices that are part of the CNA job.

“CNAs provide the most direct care in nursing home facilities, so it’s important for them to have high quality education that promotes dignity in those they care for,” said course instructor and Hesston College Nursing faculty member Erin Hershberger, who herself is a graduate of both Hesston High School and Hesston College. “These students are learning the nuances of holistic patient care and understanding that it’s not just a job – what we do is important.”

The students are pleased to have a program that offers them the training and opportunities they are looking for and that have an immediate impact. By the end of the semester they will have four and a half hours of college credit and the knowledge they need to pass the licensing exam and then secure jobs just in time for summer break. For those interested in the nursing field, they will also have good experience and insight into their future careers.

Hesston High junior Hailey Waltner has worked at Schowalter Villa as a dietary assistant for a few months. As she has seen CNAs at work, she knew she would enjoy the work and that it would also be a benefit to her.

“I’m planning to major in nursing, and I knew getting my CNA license would be a good first step into the nursing field,” Waltner said. “I’m learning a lot of new things in a short amount of time which is really good preparation.”

For the first few months of the course, the students have been doing their clinical lab work on campus in the college’s nursing simulation lab. Later in the semester the clinicals will expand to working with residents at Schowalter Villa.

CNA lab
Erin Hershberger, CNA class instructor, explains catheter care.

In the first six weeks, all of the parties are pleased with the partnership outcomes and plan to have it become an ongoing opportunity.

“This will be a once per year opportunity for Hesston High juniors and seniors, but we do hope to also expand the class to on-campus Hesston College students and other community members in the future,” said Bartell. “Ultimately it’s about trying to keep our kids local and engaged in the community.”