After discussions with multiple community partners, Mid-Carolina AHEC established a Nurse Aide Training Program in 2018 aimed at assisting regional healthcare facilities with their hiring and retention needs.
The Nurse Aide Training Program is designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to perform basic care services for patients (in an acute care setting) or residents (in a long-term care setting). All classes and clinical rotations are held nearby to reduce travel for participants and Mid-Carolina AHEC works directly with both a regional rural hospital and a long-term care facility to provide training that supports facility staffing schedules.
“Initially the goal was to provide the training locally, because at that time, the closest facility was about 30 miles away,” said Rebecca Jackson, a Continuing Professional Development Coordinator at Mid-Carolina AHEC. “This is a six-week course and by the end, participants are eligible to sit for their certification exam to become a certified nursing assistant, or CNA.”
CNA positions are in high demand across the country and the profession is considered low barrier to entry – once an individual completes training and passes the certification exam, they are eligible to work immediately. For many, this certification serves as a launching pad to pursue further healthcare careers.
By 2019, the local long-term care facility had began offering scholarships for the program, identifying existing staff working in other departments and hiring promising high school students to work as nurse helpers until they completed the training program and could transition into the role of CNAs.
Following several years of program expansion, the COVID-19 pandemic put the Nurse Aide Training Program on pause. In response to increased demand for CNAs and a shortage of certified personnel during the pandemic, the federal government temporarily suspended the certification requirement in a move aimed to remove hiring obstacles and enable healthcare facilities to hire TNAs (temporary nurse assistants) without the need for them to complete the usual qualifying exam.
This created an issue when the certification waiver was discontinued in the fall of 2022, causing a wave of TNAs hired during the pandemic to suddenly be at risk to losing their job.
“Once everything started opening back up, they had a certain deadline to get all of these nursing assistants certified or they were going to have to be let go,” said Jackson. “We stepped in and got them through and certified by the deadline so they could keep their jobs.”
Mid-Carolina AHEC worked directly with White Oak Manor, a local long-term facility in Lancaster, to put their TNAs through the Nurse Aide Training Program in the fall of 2022. By holding the course locally, the TNAs were able to continue working while obtaining certification.
“That’s what it’s really about,” said Jackson. “It’s being a part of the community and seeing the need that our local community has and just trying to help.”
As of 2023, Mid-Carolina AHEC is working with multiple partners in the region to continue growing and enhancing the Nurse Aide Training Program. Partners include the MUSC Health Medical Centers in Chester and Lancaster who identified qualified candidates and provided scholarships for the program, as well as the University of South Carolina Lancaster regional campus who offered the program to potential nursing students this past spring. Additionally, the Lancaster Housing Authority enrolled several individuals currently residing in public housing for the May 2023 program, with the intention of supporting them in obtaining certification and launching a career, thereby aiding them to transition away from public housing assistance.
“Over time the program has developed and evolved and now I would say the goal is still to provide this training locally, but also as a stepping stone to other careers in healthcare,” said Jackson. “It’s a good starting place to really get some of these individuals and students where they need to be.”
Pictured: The poster presentation presented by Mid-Carolina AHEC staff members on the Nurse Aide Training program at the 2023 NAO Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Mid-Carolina AHEC offers the Nurse Aide Training Program several times a year. More information about the program and upcoming classes can be found on their webpage at www.midcarolinaahec.org.