CNA Classes available to local high schools’ students through partnership

CNA Classes available to local high schools’ students through partnership



 Big Horn County School District No. 4 students will be able to take CNA classes for high school and college credits. The classes are a result of a partnership between the school district, the Wyoming Retirement Center (WRC) and Northwest College.

Bringing them all together was Senator RJ Kost, R-Powell.

WRC Director Tess Bailey said she reached out to Kost because of his long-standing good relationship with the Wyoming Department of Health. She also knew of him because she grew up in Powell, where he was an educator. Bailey said he has a solid reputation as well as a good working relationship with NWC. She knew he would be able to help with the staffing issues the WRC and other health facilities are experiencing.  Students under 18 can be certified to up 16-27 hours in a nursing home.

Kost said he meet with Wyoming Department of Health staffers when he was in Cheyenne, including Lisa Osvold, senior administrator of the WDH Aging Division.

Osvold noted, “We are really excited about the collaboration between the school district and the Wyoming Retirement Center (WRC). For several years it has been challenging to recruit and retain both CNAs and nurses at WRC. However, as a result of the increased demands placed on direct care staff due to the pandemic, it has become exceptionally difficult. We believe by partnering with local high schools, we can attract students into the very rewarding field of health care. It not only helps us address our workforce shortage, but it also provides a career pathway for students in the community. We truly appreciate Senator Kost for recognizing the importance of caring for our most vulnerable population by initiating these discussions.” 

Also in that meeting was the Career and Technical Education (CTE) staff from the Department of Education (WDE). Nine people joined Kost to discuss the CNA program in the state and how it could be made better.

Kost said they did a really good job “with him staying out of the way” coming up with solutions. “We also passed through the WDE a more flexible usage of the time for education,” which means it doesn’t all have to be “seat time” in classroom. It can be internship, etc.

This opened the door to do some things that haven’t’ been done in the past to set up programs for youth.

During the meeting at the WRC, they talked about how to get more CNAs in the Big Horn Basin. Every health care facility is short on CNAs. Kost suggested getting together with Basin and Greybull schools and possibly set up some trainings that would allow students to come to the WRC or Three Rivers Health to do internships. This way a nurse with long-term care experience could train to get the students certified.

“Maybe the flexibility would be that a junior or senior whose credits are not at risk could go for half day or whatever and work towards getting the certification while still going to school. Once they are certified they could work during the summer, part time evenings, weekends, etc. NWC could offer some sort of incentive, that would require the students to stay with the local retirement homes and hospital.  Like a scholarship to the nursing program,” explained Kost.

He then went to BHCSD 4 Superintendent Dave Kerby. Kerby was favorable and thought it was a great idea. Kerby talked to the school nurse Kaci Miller, who was also on board.

Bailey said the WRC’s education nurse is working on a curriculum and she hopes classes will start in the fall. She is also hopeful that on-line CNA classes will be available to the Big Horn County high schools.

She added, Miller is currency working with NWC so that the CNA class will be eligible for concurrent enrollment credits. “So, they will get high school credits, college credits, and their license. We are hoping that this will be a great opportunity for students to get introduced to the health care field and opens a career path.”

In addition to NWC, Kost is hoping to bring in the University of Wyoming. He believes the program could qualify for the Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP).  WIP is intended to support the state’s overall economic vision set forth by the Wyoming Business Council and support education attainment goals developed by the state.

Kost expounded, “If we can get them all going this way then there should be some money to make this happen through NWC.”

He added that this is a starting point, and he would like to see it expand to the Lovell, Rocky Mountain, Burlington, Powell and Worland schools and health care facilities.  He envisions some of the students may go on to be RNs. This is a win/win, he says, as it helps local youth and is more cost effective than bringing in Locum health workers (temporary/traveling). It could also create a co-op of workers that could float to the facilities in the Big Horn Basin without the cost of an agency.