Meeting the Need: Providing Nursing Care and a Workforce

Photo Credit: Luis Melendez

“Day one, they’re terrified,” says Lauren Law, an instructor in the CNA program at Emily Griffith Technical College. “Some of them look at you like, What do you know? What are you doing here? But you see them open up. You see them blossom.”

A registered nurse (RN) is usually the persona that comes to mind when envisioning the practice of nursing. However, the role that Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) play in assisting RNs is becoming more widely acknowledged — as well as increasingly in demand.

The Nurse Assisting program, offered by Emily Griffith’s College of Health Sciences and Administration, is an avenue open to students who wish to enter the healthcare field while keeping tuition costs low and and return on investment high.

Besides boasting one of the lowest tuition rates in the Denver area, Emily Griffith Technical College is an institution that understands the growing demand for healthcare workers in a society with a very large, very rapidly aging population. The day program to become a certified nursing assistant is just six weeks in length; the evening program three weeks longer.

Students begin the ten-day classroom portion by learning essential skills in the onsite nursing lab. They practice most of the skills they learn on each other, and perform the remaining three skills using mannequins. After the 75 hours spent on skills in the nursing lab, they move on to facilities within the community to complete their clinicals.

Many facilities make job offers to students once they have completed their training. One facility in Parker, Colorado, offers jobs to all Emily Griffith students who go there to complete their clinicals. In addition to the overall high need for CNAs in every facility, the students have a dedication to patient privacy and dignity — as well as high skill competency and self-direction — that shows promise.

“My worldview on healthcare changed a lot during and after the program,” says former student Makenzie Garcia, who was hired at Denver Health Hospital after completing the program. “I have a lot more respect and understanding for CNAs, and how huge their role is in patient care. Nurses truly couldn’t do their job without them.”

The CNA program moves graduates into a field projected to grow 31% between 2014 and 2024. From there, they can seek immediate work in places like hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities, or else seek additional training to become an LPN or become certified in IV therapy.

And any CNA students wishing to advance their medical career have already met the prerequisite to Emily Griffith’s Practical Nursing program, as all students pursuing an LPN must have already completed either a medical assistant training or nurse assisting certification prior to enrolling.

Jessica Blackburn, a former student now working at the SCL Lutheran Hospital in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, considered moving into Emily Griffith’s LPN program but decided to wait.

“I even took the LPN prerequisite medical terminology course,” Blackburn explains of her decision. “But now I’d like to get a better look at the different positions in a hospital — and get more experience as a CNA — before I move forward with anything else.”

Clinicals for Emily Griffith students have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but the crisis serves to highlight the importance of healthcare workers during times of both wellness and emergency. Students enter the EGTC nursing programs ready to learn, and leave eager to make an impact.

Freelancer writing from the Greater Minneapolis-St.Paul area, covering topics ranging from education and economic empowerment to human rights and health.