On June 16, 2017, Shoreline Community College graduated its first cohort of students from its newly revamped Nursing Assistant Certified (NAC) program. After six months of study, nine students graduated with the skills needed to land entry-level employment in the high-demand field of healthcare. One student, Mari Engen, is looking forward to a new career and a new lease on life.
Engen already had a BA in psychology when she started the two-quarter NAC program at Shoreline, but after being a stay-at-home mom for 19 years, she was hesitant to head back to the classroom.
“The last time I was in school was 30 years ago,” said Engen. “I was very nervous to return, but I absolutely didn’t need to be. After just a week in the program I realized I couldn’t wait to get to school every day. I felt so safe and secure in that classroom, it was like we became a family.”
The redesigned NAC curriculum is an Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program intended to take a highly supportive approach to teaching students a marketable skill while preparing them to pass the state certification exam. The course is team taught by two nursing instructors and an ESL and basic skills instructor, and the integrated curriculum ensures that the basic skills instruction complements the nursing assistant education.
“I feel like I’ve learned so far beyond what a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) knows,” said Engen. “The difference between this program and others is that they teach you how to think through on-the-job challenges. We’re not robots just following instructions, rather I really feel like I know the purposes behind each process and why I’m doing what I’m doing. The course also taught me amazing life skills. I’m a better mom right now because of it.”
Using the I-BEST model, the NAC program provides access to healthcare training for students with barriers to entry, such as financial hardship, lack of prior education or prerequisites, and English language barriers. “We’re providing a program that enables us to really wrap our arms around these students and do everything we can to help them succeed,” said Eve Sternberg, I-BEST and Community Partnerships Specialist at Shoreline.
“The NAC program is a highly supported way to get the training,” said Sternberg. “It’s a great program for students looking to get qualified for an entry-level job in healthcare while working with a team that pays attention to individual student needs and allows for a generous amount of time to practice skills and prepare for success.”
The curriculum attracts a variety of students, from recent immigrants and high school graduates, to people returning to the workforce after raising kids and workers looking for a career change.
“I recently went through a divorce and needed a way to get back into the workforce quickly,” said Engen, who is a mother of three. “I helped care for my father after he had a stroke and remember seeing so many patients in his facility who had nobody come visit them and that stuck with me. I knew I wanted to do something to give back and be in healthcare, and this program just was the perfect fit.”
For Engen, the program has been life altering. “It gives me goosebumps when I think of how my life has changed,” Engen said. “I couldn’t have gotten through my divorce without this class. When I came in I was a mess, but the instructors are just so supportive and encouraging and knowledgeable, and now I feel so strong and so confident in myself and my abilities.”
The NAC program prepares students to enter the workforce as a CNA. “It’s high demand,” said Sternberg, I-BEST specialist. “If you get your CNA certificate you’ll have your choice of employer.” Sternberg acknowledged that CNA jobs pay entry-level wages. “That’s why the program also prepares people to think about their next steps in healthcare training and how to formulate a plan to get there. They don’t have to stop at CNA.”
Engen has no plans on stopping at CNA. “The sky’s the limit now,” she said. “I’m going all the way because of this program. I want my RN. If anyone is interested in going into the medical field, this is an amazing start.”
Interested in the NAC program at Shoreline? Contact Eve Sternberg, I-BEST and Community Partnerships Specialist at Shoreline, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-546-6930. Learn more about Shoreline’s I-BEST programs.