Educational opportunity: NAC builds CNA program around students
The North Arkansas College (NAC) Carroll County Center in Berryville is building a certified nursing assistant (CNA) program around students’ schedules.
Angie Moix, director of the CNA program for NAC, visited the Carroll County Center on Wednesday to speak with local general educational development (GED) students who are interested in becoming CNAs and nurses.
“I like to give a little background on me,” Moix said. “I am the child of a small town lab technician. We lived in a town of about 1,420 people. My dad worked in the hospital, and I was up there all the time. I grew up roaming the halls of the hospital.”
She said she loved the experience and knew she wanted to be a nurse ever since she read about Florence Nightingale.
“Life got away from me. I ended up being an operations manager for an international company and had a three-state territory,” she said. “At some point, I thought ‘I want to be a nurse, and if I don’t get that done before I turn 40 I’m never going to do it.’ I started praying about it. God opened a lot of doors for me to be able to go to nursing school.”
Moix explained that there are two kinds of nurses: licensed practical nurses (LPN) and registered nurses (RN).
“An LPN is a base-level nurse,” she said. “You can do a lot of things. Scope of practice-wise, you can’t hang blood and there’s a few other things you can’t do, but LPNs are a lot of the times hired in clinics, like orthopedic or internal medicine clinics.”
Moix said she is an RN.
“I was a single mother when I went back to nursing school,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was going to do this, quite frankly. The RN program required you to be a full-time student for two years. I couldn’t make it that long without a job.”
The LPN program takes one year to complete, she said, but the RN program takes two. Luckily, she said, there are also LPN-to-RN Bridge Programs, which allow students to work as LPNs while studying for their RN certification.
“I was able to go to school for one year and get my LPN certification,” she said. “I sat for my nursing license and could work as an LPN while I got my RN.”
Moix said the CNA program is the first step to becoming a nurse, first responder, phlebotomist, respiratory therapist and many other healthcare professions.
“CNAs can work several places,” she said. “They work in hospitals and are the ones who come running when you push the button. They are the people in hospice and nursing homes who feed your loved ones and give them baths and do all of those things.”
Moix characterized the CNA certification as the base level of healthcare.
“A CNA certification is required to get into LPN and RN programs,” she said. “This is where you learn to take care of your patients at a base level. It teaches you how to position somebody for comfort, CPR, how to feed someone who’s had a stroke and all of the things you don’t think about that get done every day when taking care of someone.”
Moix continued, “I don’t want to push you into nursing. CNA is a good start for anybody who wants to do it. The only reason I’m trying to let you know about these things is to let you know they are options, and we can get you there.”
NAC will be holding a CNA program on the Carroll County Center campus in Berryville, she said.
“We have some state-of-the-art things to help teach you,” Moix said. “We have a $67,000 workforce grant to put toward our CNA programs here and in Harrison. It’s really wonderful.”
She showed the students a “blood pressure arm,” which is a mannequin arm used to teach students how to take blood pressure and check for vital signs.
Moix said the cost of the CNA program is a one-time payment of $775, which includes 90 hours of instruction, the CPR class, testing fees and test review materials.
She said there are programs available to help students with the cost. The Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative can help pay for uniforms, gas assistance and supplies, she said. To qualify, students must be an adult caretaker, parent or relative of a child under the age of 21 living in the home and must meet the income guidelines at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty limit. For more information, call the Northark CPI office at 870-391-3153.
“Rebecca Martin, who runs CPI, called me when I went back to school,” Moix said, “and said ‘We’ve got your name. We think we might be able to help you.’ I told her there are people who need it worse and to give my share to somebody else.”
She continued, “She said ‘We’ve got a grant. We’ve got to help as many people as we possibly can. If we can’t find people to help with it, we don’t get that grant renewed.’ No one had ever picked me out and said ‘Can we help you?’ I had worked hard for everything in my life since I was 16.”
Moix said it was critical for her when she took the job of CNA program director to pay forward the love that she had been given through the CPI program.
She said nursing homes and hospitals will often sponsor students to complete their CNA certifications as long as they commit to work at the healthcare facility for at least six months.
“Tell me if you’re interested in those programs on your application,” she said. “Let me help you try to find someone to sponsor you. Don’t put it all on yourselves to find a way to do that. I can send you information.”
After potential students send in their applications, Moix said, she will call them and set up an interview for them either in Harrison or in Berryville.
“You’ll be asked a series of questions,” she said, “such as ‘Why do you want to be a CNA?’ and ‘Do you have a felony?’ We can work around just about anything as long as you’re honest with me.”
Moix said students will also need to have three letters of recommendation from people who aren’t relatives speaking to their character.
She said NAC’s CNA program will likely be a 10-week program where students meet for three hours a night three nights a week.
“That would give us the 90 hours,” Moix said. “I am open to when you guys want to start this class. I don’t have anything in stone. I’m building this class around you.”
She said five students must register for the program in order for NAC to supply an instructor.
Moix encouraged the students that being a CNA is a great job.
“Typically, in this area you’re going to see a pay rate anywhere from $11 to $13 an hour,” she said. “It depends on how bad they need you, and experience makes your pay go up. We’ve got as big a shortage of CNAs as we do nurses.”
Moix continued, “It can be one of the hardest jobs in healthcare because those patients depend on you more than anyone. You are the front line. The CNAs are the people taking care of them and saying ‘Tell me about your weekend with your kids’ as you feed them breakfast. Patients have that trust with nobody else. They love you. It’s a very rewarding job.”
To access the application for the CNA program, go to Northark.edu, click on the Student and Community Services, click on the North Arkansas Partnership for Health Education (NAPHE) tab and click on the Certified Nursing Assistant link.
For more information, Moix said interested students can call her at 870-391-3140.