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Mount Desert Island Hospital is leading an effort to create the nation’s first advanced education and accreditation for Certified Nursing Assistants or (CNA). Together with five area hospitals and Eastern Maine Community College (EMCC), MDI Hospital’s education department is now enrolling the first participants in the year-long Experienced CNA program to improve patient care within the CNA scope of practice.

Certified Nursing Assistants are on the frontline of health care. Their primary role in many facilities is to provide assistance with daily living and medical care such as taking vital signs.  In many cases, they provide the physical labor of patient care.

“CNAs spend 45 minutes of every hour in direct contact with patients which makes them a critical member of the health care team,” said MDI Hospital’s Director of Education Jeff Boal. “The more knowledge they have the more likely they are to identify a change in a patient’s condition and alert a nurse or other provider.”

Boal presented the certification program at last week’s Maine Health Workforce Forum where leaders from health care, education, labor and economic development discussed future staffing needs of the health care industry. According to the Maine Department of Labor, the number of jobs in health care nearly doubled from 1992 to 2010 and is expected to continue to grow.

The Experienced CNA program is a collaborative effort between the Health Care Sector Grant Fund, Region 2 of the State of Maine, and the education department at MDI Hospital. Partner hospitals in the region include Maine Coast Memorial in Ellsworth, Blue Hill Memorial, Down East Community in Machias, Mayo Regional in Dover-Foxcroft, and Charles Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

The first class in the program is comprised of two CNAs from each partner hospital who will participate in 12 educational sessions over the next year. Long time CNA’s Earl Mackie and Cheryl Kolodziej will represent MDI Hospital.

Eastern Maine Community College will be the accrediting institution and will issue certification to CNAs who complete the program. They will also receive pay raises for completing the program. “It’s important to provide a career ladder so that we can retain experienced CNAs in the field,” Boal said. “This program also provides organizations the opportunity to recognize the value of the CNA role in a formal educational arena.”

The Experienced CNA Program’s creation and first year was funded by a $48,000 grant to create a pilot program. The curriculum includes training in fall prevention, wound care, medical terminology, end-of-life care, medical equipment, and geriatric care. Many of these subjects, Boal said, cover areas CNA’s come in contact with on a daily basis. With this additional training and certification, CNA’s will be able to expand their contribution to patient care, Boal said.

Even though the program is considered a pilot, Boal said it has already been adopted by other medical facilities and educational institutions. When the first class graduates next December, it is Boal’s hope that the program becomes a fully accredited college program at EMCC that is available to all CNA’s in Maine and beyond.

 

 

 

 

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