A nursing course held in a local health lab is helping ease the need for nurse aides in area care facilities while offering students entry into a health career.

The Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) course, held at the Manchester Center through Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), allows area students to take course work in the site’s health lab before heading to area care facilities for clinical experience.

According to Manchester Center Director Holly Maurer, the health lab addresses the needs both of students and care facilities. “We looked at our needs and the need really was health programming. We spoke with the Good Neighbor Society and other assisted living centers in the area to inquire if us developing the health lab was something they would be able to utilize.”

With a high demand for CNAs, Maurer said the class and clinical component helps place students in area care facilities. “The benefit of having classes at the lab and working with the different clinical sites is that now we can do a rotation. CNAs are in high demand right now at any of our locations. Most students actually have a job before they leave a rotation site. That is phenomenal.”

Besides having a job before being done with the program, students often benefit from sign-up bonuses offered by facilities. “Sometimes facilities will help pay for the student to get trained or to get additional training,” Maurer explained.

The current class has 18 students, which Maurer admits is bigger than she would like. “We offer a fall class, a spring class and a summer class. Usually we try to cap class size at 10 to 12, but if there is a need, we want to fill it.”

The class has high school students from West Delaware, Maquoketa Valley, Beckman Catholic and Clayton Ridge, as well as non-traditional students.

Shelly Blanchard is a non-traditional student who travels from Fayette to attend the class.

“I already work at Maple Crest in Fayette,” Blanchard said. “When I started there, I was called a universal worker. To learn more of the skills and to qualify for a pay increase I am taking the CNA class.” Blanchard said Maple Crest is paying the class tuition along with paying for uniforms and equipment she needs.

Blanchard is also a counselor, licensed in Iowa and Minnesota. She explained her reasons for also working at Maple Crest. “I do this part time as a way to give back. My grandfather passed away two years ago. He had Alzheimer’s disease and I saw the really good care he got. I wanted to give back to the community in that way.”

Reece Mensen is using the class as a springboard to a nursing career. Mensen, who will be a junior at Maquoketa Valley in the fall, said the class has been helpful. “It has definitely opened my eyes to a whole bunch of stuff. The class will help me understand patients so when I actually work in a hospital, I will know what to do.”

Mensen said she found out about the class through her school. According to Maurer, that kind of communication through Delaware County schools is key to the success of health programming at the lab.

“We have amazing support from our schools,” Maurer said. “They all promote our health programming and we get a lot of registrations from that high school support, as well as businesses we partner with that refer potential employees to us.”

Pam Moritz is the instructor of the CNA course. Moritz, who has been a nurse for 15 years, began her nursing career as a CNA 30 years ago. She said CNAs today are better prepared as a result of the class.

“The class teaches skills. When I was a CNA you learned on the floor. This class prepares them more. It offers lab time to practice a bit. Then we go to the clinic sites and they get the hands-on experiences there. This class makes for a better-prepared CNA and a better-prepared nurse.”

Moritz likes the set up of the health lab. “It’s perfect. We see a lot of different age groups come through. It makes it nice they can have their lectures and labs right here and we don’t have to go to another facility to do that.”

Maurer said she is looking at other options for the health lab. “We are hoping to get more credit programming here, especially for students who are going on into health care fields.”

Maurer added, “We are very excited to have the health lab here. Having this option locally can make a huge difference in someone’s life.”