The bell was about to ring, but the students in Marylee Hackman’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course were not in a rush. As they tested out different ways to take a temperature — tympanic, temporal and by mouth — they seemed to be enjoying themselves. They took turns reading their thermometers, speaking pleasantly and comfortably to each other, as though everyone in the room was a friend.
That’s one of the benefits of taking Canyons’ CNA course, Hackman says. Yes, the students learn CPR, more than 500 medical abbreviations and essential caretaking skills, and receive a license from the Utah Nursing Assistant Registry after passing the state licensing exam, but the students also seem to get an added bonus from attending the class at the Canyons Technical Education Center (CTEC) for 2.5 hours every day: near-instant camaraderie.
“I thought, ‘Let’s just try it out,’” said CNA student Haylie Webster, who attends Alta High as her home school. “From the instant I got there, it was so fun and we were so excited together and laughing together and it has been that way ever since.”
Webster decided to take the semester-long course to see if she might want to pursue a career in nursing someday. She doesn’t like needles, and is plenty scared of medical settings, but she loves the idea of helping other people and getting technical training.
“I think CNA is a great way to get exposure to the medical field,” Webster says. “It has been nice to have an opportunity that is totally supported throughout the schools and the teachers are awesome and the staff is great. Even if it’s not what I end up pursuing, just to get an idea of the career field helps with that transition.”
Hackman says Canyons’ CNA course provides students a solid foundation to pursue a career in medicine, but even if students don’t follow a medical path, the skills they gain can be helpful in other areas of their lives. The students are exposed to medical abbreviations commonly used in long-term care facilities or hospitals. They also learn how to take vital signs, feed someone who has lost the ability to feed themselves, ambulate patients who are recovering from a stroke and change an occupied bed, among other skills required by the state for CNA licensing.
“I’ve been a nurse for 28 years, and (the CNA course) is at that level of, when I was in nursing school, I feel like it’s a better foundation that I received way back when,” Hackman says with a smile.
Students are required to work 72 hours in a long-term care facility as part of their coursework. During that clinical session, they assist other CNAs and help take care of patients. After completing Canyons’ CNA course, students can use their license to work at an extended care facility. They can also participate in the student-led medical organization HOSA, which has scholarship opportunities and student competitions.
“Some of these students may choose to go on to college and further their career in medicine, wonderful, but some of them may choose to stay as a CNA and that will be their career and that is wonderful too,” Hackman says. “Regardless of either of these avenues, the knowledge acquisition and experience they get in this program is exceptional so it will benefit them greatly either way.”