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Red Cross program planned

Nurse assistant training classes to start soon

By Kim Walter

In order to help meet the predicted growing demand for health care workers, the American Red Cross is launching its Nurse Assistant Training Program in Winchester this September.

The program, which already exists in two Virginia locations and is nationally recognized, prepares students for certification by the Virginia Board of Nursing and incorporates nursing, life and career skills.

Roughly 10 to 12 students will be accepted for each session, which takes four weeks to complete. The class meets 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the organization's Top of Virginia Chapter at 561 Fortress Drive in Winchester.

Apart from the classroom portion, a variety of hands-on clinical experiences will be held at Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury during the four-week period.

The first session runs from Sept. 9 to Oct. 4, and two other sessions have already been scheduled for October and November.

One must apply for the program, and should be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED. Students should also be able to pass a criminal background check and drug screen, be a U.S. citizen or have a green card, have basic computer skills and access to a red scrub top, white pants, white shoes and a watch with a second-hand.

Tuition for the focused, 130-hour program is $1,250, which is due five days prior to orientation. Mark Whiting, senior program manager, said there are several opportunities for financial aid.

"We realize finding the tuition can be a challenge for some people, especially those who are under-employed or unemployed," he said.

Applicants who are spouses of military personnel may qualify for 100 percent tuition coverage. Income-based scholarships are also available.

For a limited time, prospective students may receive a $1,000 financial aid stipend. The stipends are provided by the Walmart Foundation to assist people currently unemployed, under employed, receiving public assistance or wanting to advance in the health care field.

Whiting said applications will be considered on an individual basis, but the program is really looking for someone interested in a health care career, no matter their background.

"This program really works," he said. "If a student commits to this and is focused, they can be done with the program, pass the certified nursing assistant exam, and be employed in less than two months."

The opportunity comes at a perfect time, Whiting added. According to the Virginia Employment Commission and the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the state is right on track with national trends that project a 78 percent employment growth rate in the health care field over the next seven years.

Whiting said the Winchester-area data is also looking at a similar situation.

"Just for the region, the number two and number three projected growth occupations are home health aid and personal care aids," he said. "If you couple that with the fact that Valley Health is your largest employer ... Winchester is a great location for this program."

The program has been under way in Richmond for the past eight years. Whiting said for the past 18 months, 100 percent of the students have passed the CNA exam upon course completion.

Course instructors are all local registered nurses, Whiting added, and they come with a wealth of experience in nursing and teaching.

"We've got it down to a science at this point," he said. "We've got a standard textbook and curriculum that lead to a student becoming a Red Cross CNA. We know from our experience with the program that there's a level of expectation that comes with that title."

After completing the program, students are not required to work for the Red Cross, but Whiting said it's common for participants to quickly enter the work force.

"We have a lot of students caring for the elderly, there's definitely a need there," he said. "But there's also been a few students who use this as a stepping stone to continue their education and go on to medical school."

Once the program is up and running, Whiting said it will "be here to stay."

"It's a very focused course, and the expectations are very high," he said. "But we saw a need in the region, and this program can help fill that."

To learn more and download an application for the program, go to www.redcross.org/va/winchester and click on Programs & Services.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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