Nurse Aide program provides 10 students with different learning opportunity every semester


Photo courtesy of Logaan Whiting

The students of the first semester Nurse Aide program smile for a BeReal with teacher Tricia Cummings.

Clare Kirwan, Head Editor-in-Chief

10 students each semester are selected for the Nurse Aide program. The program is particularly unique as it is one of the only programs available at the high school level where the entire course takes place at a long-term care facility. Tricia Cummings is a CTE and health science teacher who is also in charge of the Nurse Aide program.

“My goal is for students to have the opportunity to have an experience in the healthcare field where they’re learning about long term care and how to take care of people, rules and regulations, all kinds of stuff,” Cummings said.

The class is a semester long and requires the students to spend the first two blocks off campus at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC) learning; some of which is spent in the classroom or skills lab learning how to prepare for direct patient care and clinicals.

“They practice the hands on stuff. Working with a mannequin is quite a bit different than working with a real human, but at least they can practice the technique,” Cummings said. “We do spend a good bit of time in the classroom talking about rules and regulations in healthcare settings, specifically the long-term care setting. We also talk about dementia, about death and dying, the grieving process and different health conditions that are a little more common in the aging population.”

Senior Daniela Montero-Ruiz particularly enjoyed working hands-on with the residents, but experienced mental blocks at the beginning of the program. 

“My experience in the program was great, I love clinicals which is where you’re actually working with people. Some challenges I faced internally was the fear of hurting someone. You’re not ever going to hurt somebody, but it is a fear I had at the beginning of the program,” Montero-Ruiz said.

From Christmas parties to clinicals, those in the program form a tight-knit bond. Junior Emmanuel Flores-Lobo was the first male to ever be a part of the Nurse Aide program and enjoyed this aspect of the program.

“My favorite part was probably the friendships I made along the way because when you join the class, it’s not like your typical high school class, everyone starts out at ground zero. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what you’re going to learn, so it’s kind of fun seeing everyone grow together and eventually become CNAs,” Flores-Lobo said.

Cummings loves seeing the students together even beyond the class. Just last week three students sent her a picture of them working together at VMRC.

“It was an amazing class, as is every class I have worked with. The beauty of Nurse Aide in general is that everybody starts from scratch having never done any of this. A lot of the students didn’t know each other at all, and by the end, they were all each other’s greatest cheerleaders on test day,” Cummings said. “New friendships have been formed. I see some of them in the halls together which is so awesome. Some of them are now actually working together as CNAs.”

Flores-Lobo just went through VMRC’s CNA orientation and senior Mitsail Adhanom plans on beginning to work this March, but Montero-Ruiz has been working as a CNA for the past few weeks.

“I didn’t really know what the CNA program was at first, but Ms. Cummings told me it would be a great opportunity for me. I took the offer and I fell in love with the program,” Montenero-Ruiz said. “My experience working as a CNA has been amazing. The job is very similar to clinicals, but it is a lot more responsibility because everything is on you and your license is on the line.” 

It makes my heart so happy because really my strongest feeling is that these students are all going to be quality CNAs and make a positive difference in the community

— Tricia Cummings

Adhanom knew the Nurse Aide program was something she wanted to do due to her interest in nursing. When the opportunity came for her to select her courses, the program was first on her list.

“I would recommend the class to anyone who is interested in healthcare, but they are not sure if healthcare is what they want to do. It is the best class I have ever taken. It’s very good to know what you’re wanting to do and if healthcare is your thing,” Adhanom said.

Many students fall in love with nursing through the program, others realize it may not be exactly what they want to do. Nonetheless, students receive high school credit.

“I feel like students are proud to be in the program because it is a select program. Only 10 students can take it at a time,” Cummings said. “They get to wear their scrubs on Mondays and it’s cool because it gives them an additional identity. I think that’s just really good for people’s well being.”

Cummings awards each class a superlative and this year’s group had a natural ability in working with residents diagnosed with dementia. She notes, “they made the residents feel so comfortable and loved.”

I just think of when I was working as a nurse; the CNAs were the backbone of the industry in my opinion. To see this many students now working as CNAs, they are making a difference. Such a difference,” Cummings said. “My daughter was in the hospital for two and a half weeks 10 years ago; she’s still Facebook friends with two of her CNAs. They were the caregivers that she will always remember.”

Amidst a current nurse shortage, Cummings believes students such as these are vital to the survival of the industry.

“It makes my heart so happy because really my strongest feeling is that these students are all going to be quality CNAs and make a positive difference in the community,” Cummings said.