Got Certification? High Schoolers Get Head Start with New Nursing Assistant Class

Maya Hirano, Copy Editor

     With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting employment to grow by 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, the demand for certified nursing assistants is climbing — especially in Hawai‘i. This year, MHS is offering a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) class, available to juniors and seniors who have taken prerequisite classes. While MHS is currently partnered with Leeward Community College (LCC), in future years they will be partnering with Hawai‘i Pacific Health (HPH) who had originally asked for the school to implement the program.

     “There is a high need. That’s why HPH is asking high schools to offer this course — is because it’s benefiting not only the students, right — being able to get certified while in high school and they can go get a job, but it’s also helping HPH because then they’re getting that much more certified people in the job force,” said Clinical Health and Directed Studies teacher Shirlen Tanaka.

     The CNA class is part of the Directed Studies elective offered to students who have passed both the Health Services Core Pathway and Clinical Health electives with a B or higher. The CNA portion itself begins in the second semester and is taught by a certified instructor. “I was interested because I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to immerse myself in the health field and I thought the CNA class would be a great foundation for my journey into the health field,” said Junior Angelina Dulay. Senior Crislen Suan added, “I want to become a physician assistant and then CNA gives you that basic knowledge to become one.”

     Student cost for this year totaled $200, as they are required to pay for two sets of scrubs, safety glasses, a blood pressure kit and the final exam. In order to get certified, students must have attended in-class instruction, performed 100 clinical hours and passed the prometric exam. Clinical hours were tentatively planned to take place at Paolo Chinese Home in Honolulu from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the weekends and during spring break. “It’s going to be a challenge because like for most of us, we have seven classes a day and we have to fight traffic too, going and coming back, so I think that’s one major thing. But I think one good thing is that we’re going to be carpooling a lot, so it’ll be fun and I’ll get to like bond closer with everyone in that class,” said Senior Madison Isa-Real. Tanaka added, “It’s cheaper to do it within the DOE (Department of Education) versus if you were to do it outside private, so I think the cost is a good motivator too.”

     Some examples of curriculum that is covered throughout in-class instruction  include learning how to measure the height and weight of patients, admit a resident and take a manual blood pressure. Instruction with LCC was planned to begin in late January. “During the break, Christmas break, we got our two hospital beds that (were) donated through HPH. They were the ones who were able to give us the beds and they also provided hospital (tables) too, so you know, already HPH has invested in Mililani by giving those high cost equipments to our program,” said Tanaka. 

      With 2020 being its pilot year at MHS, the CNA class may spark interest in other students who are planning to pursue a career in medicine. For seniors, obtaining certification will allow them to get a career-related job and gain experience while still in college. “(I found out) through our teacher that I had before for the first section of the Directed Studies pathway, and she said that there was this new opportunity happening so I was like, I have to take this chance because it’s the best I’m going to get,” said Isa-Real, who plans to attend college in Arizona to become a labor and delivery nurse.

    Prior to registration, not many students had known of the class due to lack of advertisement and lack of time for paperwork and parental permission. “I feel like — yeah, if more people knew about it and the opportunities it had, it’d be good for them to just join,” said Senior Jayce Lozano, who ended up being the only male in the class.

     Tanaka finds the MHS student body to have a high interest in the medical field and expects the CNA class to grow in popularity in the upcoming years.