Eight CNAs licensed through Hospital's CNA course

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Hammond-Henry Hospital Employees who are also licensed CNAs include, from left, Patty Maynard, Amelia Maynard, Terri Millam, Judy Kuhn, Amy Blaser, Mayra Bretado, Missing from the photo are Ariel Macquarrie and Hazel Butter.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs), which already was strained, became even more acute at area health care institutions, including Hammond-Henry Hospital and its Long Term Care Center in Geneseo.

In addition, due to COVID-19, regional “go-to” training programs were placed on hold by local academic institutions. It was a tough time, and in tough times, ideas can sometimes blossom…Hazel Butter, Director of Human Resources at Hammond-Henry, saw the issue worsening as months into the pandemic continued.

“Departments were really beginning to suffer and I thought something must be done,” Butter said.

During the last 20-plus years, the hospital had partnered with Black Hawk College and hosted a dual-enrollment CNA course specific to high school students over a nine-month period. Students had both classes and clinicals at the hospital, which were most recently taught by Beth Keim, RN. Keim has worked at the hospital since 2006, taught the class for the last 10 years and retired from teaching last July.

As developed by Butter, the plan was to expand current employees’ healthcare prowess, add to their marketable skill set and create an internal pool of candidates already familiar with the organization’s policies and culture. In partnership with Black Hawk College, beginning in November of 2020, a formal CNA course was offered to interested hospital employees.

The hospital financially supported the program by offering partial scholarships to ease financial burden on students. Many students benefited from this investment and with a one-year work commitment beginning in 2021, students began receiving instruction through online courses, clinical labs at both the college and hospital, and patient-interaction clinicals that were completed on the hospital acute care floor.

The class was intense, but quick, at seven weeks, with students graduating and taking their certification exams in early January.

According to Butter, “Our local class of students was the only CNA class held in the Quad Cities area this semester by any school.”

Employees who completed the course and passed their State exam may now work extra shifts as CNAs while continuing in their current positions at the hospital. The option to move into full-time CNA roles is also available as jobs are posted.

Butter said, “From the perspective of the students, their families, the hospital, Black Hawk College and especially our patients, this was an innovative, encouraging program and a true example of a ‘win-win’.”

The hospital and Black Hawk College are considering the next session over the next few months.