Years from now, they’ll look back on their days in nursing school and remember how it felt to care for their first patient, the way hope and worry and nervous energy dissipated with a smile, a touch, and maybe even a wink. Don’t worry, said the hand that grasped theirs. You’ll do just fine, said the wink.
It’s a story Marina Orobinskaia has seen play out a hundred times or more at The Village at Judson Park, ABHOW’s continuing care retirement community in Des Moines, Wash. As a clinical instructor at nearby Highline Community College, Orobinskaia has a front-row seat for the interactions between her students and the residents in skilled nursing they help care for as part of their training to become a Certified Nurse Assistant, or CNA.
“It’s so sweet and fun to see the way the residents ask the students questions and want to know all about them,” says Orobinskaia. “The students sometimes are surprised at that, but for the residents in skilled nursing, these young people are a breath of fresh air.”
As many as 75 CNA students – some of them from Renton Technical College – will complete their training at Judson Park this year. From there, they can either choose to find work as a CNA or pursue a licensed nursing degree. A majority of them go on to become a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.
No matter what career path they ultimately choose, the training they receive at Judson Park will be among the most valuable of their professional life, according to Andrea Fife, the community’s director of nursing. Learning how to provide the basic tenets of daily living – such as bathing, dressing and eating – is a critical first step to caring for the whole person, Fife says.
“Here they have the luxury of time, of talking to the resident and learning how to communicate with the person they’re caring for, and that’s invaluable to them and to the people they’ll care for in the future,” says Fife.
By the time they conclude their training at Judson Park, students have typically worked 10 eight-hour shifts under the watchful eye of their instructor and a nursing supervisor. Once that first shift is under their belt, Fife says the students are a big help to her team and to the community in general.
“They aren’t just learning, they are doing the work,” she points out. “Their being here means more time and attention for our residents, and because they are gaining an interest in the elderly, it’s good for our field, too.”