According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare careers are projected to outpace almost every other major occupational group in terms of job growth between 2010 and 2020. Recognizing the growing need for trained healthcare workers in Northern Virginia, BEACON has instituted a pilot program aimed at preparing interested students with the basic skills required to pursue a career as a Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA), Home Health Aide (HHA), or Personal Care Aide (PCA).
A review of the nation’s top 100 jobs by the American Community Survey, an ongoing statistical analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau, states that healthcare careers, ranging from Personal Care Aides to doctors, account for more than 27 percent of foreign workers’ employment nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest published reports, women constitute approximately 75 percent of the 1.8 million foreign-born workers employed in health care occupations, with nearly one-third of them employed as nursing, psychiatric, or home health aides.
In September 2016, BEACON launched its CareGiver initiative, a pre-clinical training program open to students in the Intermediate and Advanced Level ESOL classes who have shown interest in a healthcare career. Under the umbrella of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), a law that focuses on training and education to prepare students for a global workforce, two volunteer (retired) Registered Nurses teach the curriculum, which continues to be developed in close partnership with professionals in the relevant healthcare fields.
Students entering the CareGiver class are taught the basic pre-clinical skills necessary to better position them for acceptance into a CNA/HHA program at an accredited training institution.
BEACON has partnered with three local organizations: Astar Education Institute, which promotes cultural interchanges and education of immigrants; Excel Health Institute, which offers classes in CNA and other clinically-related careers; and Certified Skilled Nursing Services & Associates, which provides HHA training and services. These businesses work closely with BEACON, providing motivati onal speakers who encourage the students to consider a healthcare career, present a realistic picture of the requirements and rewards and offer potential education and employment connections.
Certified Skilled Nursing Services & Associates’ CEO/Administrator and BEACON Board Member, Happiness Emejuru, herself an immigrant to the U.S., recently shared her story with the students of the first CareGiver class. “I am a native of Nigeria,” she begins. “Before coming to this country, I endured refugee status in the Biafra War, and an arranged marriage to a stranger who proved extremely abusive. I was smuggled across the U.S.-Mexican border, stood for long periods in food lines, and lived in homeless shelters.”
Throughout her tumultuous journey, Happiness became grounded in faith and hope in God, and trusted that her purpose in life was something greater than she could have imagined. As a mentor and friend to immigrants, Happiness is better equipped than many to relate to struggles faced by the students. “I was in your position when I first migrated to this country,” she shares. “But through hard work, and an unshakable trust in God, today I own my own business and am able to give back for all that has been given to me. I’m proud to help BEACON students realize their potential as they journey on their path to success in America.”
The caregiver field is considered to be one of a jack-of-all trades, where empathy and compassion drive the commitment to provide for the patient’s wellbeing. But of all the qualities required to be successful in this field, none is more important than strong communication skills.
To be able to communicate effectively with patients, families and other healthcare professionals is paramount to every aspect of patient management and requires a greater level of verbal and written English skills. Preserving the integrity of this high standard, several of BEACON’s current CareGiver students are dual-enrolled in advanced-level ESOL classes three times a week, where they continue to develop their English language skills and employment potential.
CareGiver classes are very hands-on. Building on the BEACON-developed curriculum, and the Nursing Assistance Care textbook, the RN instructors introduce students to the basic tools of clinical patient management. Students become familiar with medical terminology, learn to take a patient’s temperature, monitor blood pressure, pulse, and respiration, and gain an in-depth understanding of the expectations and advancement opportunities for CNAs, HHAs, and PCAs. Instructive videos introduce students to skills they will learn should they decide to pursue this career path — such as patient bathing and dressing, helping those who are wheelchair bound, and procedures for safely turning bedridden patients.
BEACON’s CareGiver program provides an orientation to entry-level healthcare occupations, but is limited to pre-clinical instruction. Students receive a BEACON certificate for completing the course, but certification is only procured from a clinical and accredited training institution (ultimately facilitated by our local partners). Students do, however, receive CPR training and once completed, earn their CPR certification. Each semester will culminate in a graduation ceremony for program completers.
Eight students are currently enrolled in this program and BEACON aims to double that number in coming semesters. “We are very excited to offer this pre-clinical training program to interested students, and will do everything we can to assist them in enrolling,” said Marianne Racca, Director of Development & Programs, Benedictine Sisters of Virginia.
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