Education Matters: Making sure nursing students finish their education in a pandemic

Education

FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Certified nursing assistants are in huge demand. They care for some of our most vulnerable citizens, residents of nursing homes, and living centers.

However, a popular training program in Central Valley high schools was almost upended as students did not know if they would be able to complete the year-long program when COVID-19 forced high schools to close in March.

“We work with seven different convalescent facilities around our areas and them being on lockdown, the part of the CNA [certified nursing assistant] program which the students have to actually be at the facilities to get their clinical hours to qualify for the CNA program we couldn’t do that anymore,” said Superintendent of Valley ROP Fabrizio Lofaro.

Fabrizio Lofaro is the superintendent of Valley Regional Occupational Program, which serves seven rural school districts in Fresno County. Certified nursing assistants are in huge demand and this year more than 200 students enrolled in the program were in danger of not being able to complete their studies.

“We started working the Department of Public Health and we started looking at other ways of getting the program approved so we could continue certifying the students and giving them the hours they needed to do.”

They were able to get a variance from the state and were allowed to continue the program on-line with distance learning.

“Adjusting to distance learning was a process for the students because they had to go to a quick online process,” said teacher Suricee Chambers. “So we were Zooming: we were learning zoom together we were doing hang-outs.”

Chambers says the students were very innovative – even practicing on their relatives to simulate being in a clinical setting. Practicing at home prepared students for the final phase of the program where they were required to meet face to face with instructors to be tested on their skills.

“We have only four students total with four teachers. Everybody is spaced in two different buildings and everybody is wearing masks. We are taking their temperature.”

Getting these students certified was an important task. They are currently on the front lines of the battle against a deadly virus and caring for some of the most vulnerable residents in nursing homes and living centers.

Students will be able to take their state certification test later this month.

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