ELIZABETHTOWN — While high school graduation last week meant the ending of one journey and the beginning of another for most, the students coming out of East Bladen and West Bladen high schools nursing fundamental class were already well on their way to careers.
All 19 of them earned their certified nursing assistant license level I prior to graduating, making them the fourth graduating class of CNA’s in Bladen County.
Willa Dean Williams, Career and Technical Education director, credits the nursing fundamentals teachers at the two high schools, Brandy Wilkins of East Bladen and Mary Todd of West Bladen, for the success of the program.
“The teachers prepare their students all semester for the exam,” Williams said. “When the state evaluator comes in and begins the exam process, the students are 100 percent prepared.”
Some of the students have job offers before they graduate. Once they’ve passed their state exam they can begin work the next day.
As a CNA, the students actually have several options that include heading straight into the work force or going off to college to further their nursing education. They also could use their certification to earn a job in the medical field to help pay for college.
“They could work assisted living, home health, at a nursing home, a hospital, pretty much in any capacity in a health care environment that will allow a CNA to work,” Williams said.
“I would feel comfortable with any one of these students to take care of me or my loved ones in a health care setting,” Mary Todd said.
The Nursing Fundamentals Program is only open to seniors who meet a strict criterion. Students must score an 86 or higher in Health Science I and II just to begin the application process to take the course preparing them for the CNA license. Additionally, students need teacher recommendation and have solid attendance at school.
The students also must be prepared to spend time off campus to do their clinicals at Elizabethtown Nursing Center and Poplar Heights Center
The class is one semester, and seniors either take it in the fall or spring.
The CNA certification is also a prerequisite to get into nursing programs, so any student leaving high school is already a jump ahead of some of their competition.
West Bladen student Alyssa Chadwick will continue her nursing education while working as a
“I wanted to be a CNA so that I could be of help to someone who needed me,” said Chadwick. “I realized I wanted to become a CNA when my father was in the hospital, seeing the CNA’s work with him and help him when he couldn’t help himself made me want to take part in that.”
Sydney Jackson, another West Bladen CNA graduate said, “The hardest part about being a CNA is listening to residents who don’t have someone to come see them. It really is a tough feeling hearing what they have to say and how emotional they get, but this is where we step in. This is when we comfort the resident and make them feel important and wanted.”
Jackson also added that “I’ve been told to help others as if they were my family so throughout all my CNA training, this was my motto to myself.”
“The hardest part of being a CNA will probably be new job opportunities. As much as they will help out, I get very attached to people and it will be hard for me to leave my patients because it was hard for me to leave clinicals,” said Hannah Malcolm, West Bladen CNA.
All three students plan on pursuing more education as well to further their careers in the medical field, and knew this would be their chosen paths early in their high school education.
“I realized I wanted to become a CNA when my father was in the hospital, seeing the CNA’s work with him and help him when he couldn’t help himself made me want to take part in that,” said Chadwick.
Hannah realized after completing her clinical rotation that she wanted to work in the medical field.
“At first I wanted to be a CNA so it would look good on college applications, but after completing the course and attending clinicals I really enjoyed the work,” said Malcom.
Alyssa and Hannah will both attend Bladen Community College in the fall to further their degrees in nursing. Sydney will attend The University of North Carolina at Pembroke studying athletic training.
East Bladen seniors who graduated with their CNA are Kassandra Arteaga-Trejo, Destiny Baker, Jennifer Carter, Willow Edge, CJ Murphy, Queen Mitchell, Ross Johnson, Lily Nguyen and Maddie West.
West Bladen seniors who graduated with their CNA are Jazlyn Best, Kelly Caulder, Alyssa Chadwick, Mariela Delvalle, Tyrionna Dockery, Jenna Floyd, Sydney Jackson, Alanna Ludlum, Hannah Malcolm and Janessa Richardson.
Valerie Newton is the public information officer with Bladen County Schools.