Mt. Vernon High School strives to provide students with real-life experiences that prepare them for success after high school. This year at Mt. Vernon High School (MVHS), a new course, Health Science I, has been implemented that enables students to receive their Certified Nursing Assistant certification and college credit through Ivy Tech Community College.
Mt. Vernon High School discovered the student body’s interest in nursing through a career survey in 2018. This student career interest survey, sent by Stan Wilkinson, Assistant Principal, was an effort to align the courses offered at MVHS with career pathways and student body interest. The survey results indicated that a large number of MVHS students wanted to pursue a career in the health industry. From there, the CNA program at Mt. Vernon High School was launched in partnership with the Anderson Career Center.
The CNA program takes place in the afternoon for three hours throughout the full school year. Currently, the class consists of 15 students (juniors and seniors). Students are learning about dementia care, health careers, resume building, and medical terminology with hands-on experiences. In the classroom, there are wheelchairs, walkers, canes, beds--and a full lab with a patient simulator so students can experience how to handle ailments that a geriatric long term patient might encounter.
After the students master their in-class work, they travel to Springhurst Health (Trilogy) in Greenfield for their clinical hours, which are necessary to obtain a CNA certification. MVHS senior Emily Rollo comments, “On our first day of clinicals, it felt like we were jumping off of the deep end; scary but also fun. After spending hours learning in the classroom, it all felt worth it. This class has taught me what it takes to go into the healthcare field and what to expect in my career. Learning the basic skills of a nurse before college makes me feel very prepared for the future!”
These students are leaving the program (Health Science I & II) with potentially five certifications and up to 29 dual credit hours doing hands-on, real life clinical rotations at Springhurst. Some of their tasks include transporting and caring for patients, as well as mastering a list of 72 specific resident care procedures (RCPs). This year's students will be taking their knowledge and application based state exam in April of this semester. The material they are tested over includes 30 chapters of lessons condensed into 100 questions. In order to earn their CNA, they have to pass the exam with an 80%, and then successfully perform randomly selected RCPs in front of the state test administrator.
The benefits and opportunities that MVHS students earn from completing this course and earning their CNA certification are extremely valuable. After their junior year, students who successfully earn their certification are eligible to work at health facilities earning top dollar wage. In fact, the current students earn money completing their clinical hours at Springhurst, while receiving amazing feedback and experience during the process. The instructor, Kellee Harney, RN and Co-Owner/Operator of Hardon Educational Institute, says, “You watch them come in so timid, so shy, so afraid, and you boost them and then you watch them go into the clinical experience, and we have all these rave reviews,” she said. Those reviews also often come with the question, “When can we hire them?” she added.
Class of 2015 MVHS graduate and current graduate student at IUPUI School of Nursing, Savannah Laker, notes the benefits of the course, “It allows prospective nursing students to decide if they like providing patient care before deciding to make it their career. There are many people who become nurses without fully realizing all it entails to take care of someone. If this program were available when I was in school, I would have definitely pursued it."
Health careers are the leading careers of interest right now, and MVHS students are able to explore 96 health careers in the class. Harney says, “Our goal is to help the students navigate what is best for them and their futures. We provide knowledge about careers in the health field like EMT, surgical technician, physicians assistant, among many others, while the students simultaneously earn their CNA and build their resumes.”
MVHS has several future goals for this program, one of which includes expanding into two separate classes: Health Science I, which is the CNA course being offered now, and Health Science II next year will be available for seniors. MVHS is also looking to expand the program in the near future by opening it up to other schools in the county. MVCSC supports MVHS’s goal of building community partnerships to provide additional tools for students to succeed after high school, regardless of whether students plan to go into a trade or pursue a degree.