By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School junior Arlena Michaud has wanted to go into nursing since the eighth grade.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” she said. “I love biology and all things medical.”
Michaud didn’t have to wait until after graduation to get started on her nursing path. Michaud, whose mother is a nurse, is one of 15 students in Woodland’s inaugural certified nursing assistant course this year.
“It’s kind of in me,” Michaud said about nursing, “and I wanted to start early to get the experience.”
The CNA course is a full-year class that includes classroom and lab work at the high school as well as a clinical experience in the field, though the clinical portion wasn’t held this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Region 16, which is comprised of Beacon Falls and Prospect, contracted with Naugatuck Valley Community College to run the course. The course cost about $46,000 to run this year, Woodland principal Kurt Ogren said. The cost included about $7,000 for supplies and equipment, like a mannequin and hospital bed, and workbooks to get the program started.
The course blends nursing skills with classwork. The areas the class covers include taking care of patients and their daily living activities, taking vital signs and medical privacy law.
“This actually gives them the ability to get down to the nitty-gritty of health care,” said Amber Penland, a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital and teaches the course at Woodland.
Through the course, students can choose to take the state exam to earn their CNA certification. As part of the exam, instructors pick one of five skills, including repositioning a patient, denture care and feeding a patient, for students to show their competency.
“You have to be ready for all five skill sets, you don’t know which one you’re going to get,” senior Lauren Mulinski said.
On May 15, 13 students took and passed their competencies at Naugatuck Valley Community College, Ogren said.
Penland said students also earned their patient care technician certification. She said the certifications allow them to work as a CNA or PCT.
“Right now PCTs and CNAs are in big demand, as health care always is,” Penland said.
The course gives high school students an in-depth, realistic look into the nursing world at a time when they are contemplating what they want to do with their lives, Penland said. Some students, she said, take the class and realize nursing isn’t a career for them.
“It gives them the opportunity before they actually go to college and maybe before they enter the working world to really understand what the role plays as,” she said.
The course only affirmed Michaud’s desire to pursue nursing. She said the class made her realize there’s people in the world that can’t help themselves.
“They need somebody to help,” she said. “That’s why I want to be there for them.”
For Mulinski, the course broadened her perspective.
Mulinski is attending the University of New Haven in the fall and majoring in homeland security and emergency management. She said she’s undecided on what exactly she wants to do for a career, but being a registered nurse or paramedic is in the mix.
Mulinski said the class allowed her to see situations from a CNA’s perspective. She said the more perspectives she gains the better she’ll be at any field she chooses to go into after college.
“It broadened my skill set, and it really makes me think differently and from a different perspective from what I usually do,” she said.
Both Mulinski and Michaud recommended any student interested in nursing or health care take the course.
“If you think that you might be interested in it, take it,” Mulinski said. “This is your chance to figure out if you want to go into this field.”