Before they get to give shots or draw blood from actual patients, students in the Health Science Academy get to practice on lifelike mannequins to master their technique.
Program coordinator Beth Brumley wanted to not only to help teach future Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), but also to give back to her alma mater.
"My heart is here. This is where I graduated high school from. And so I felt like I could pour back into the high school where I graduated from. And not only the high school, but the whole system because I get to teach Colbert County, Cherokee and Colbert Heights students,” said Brumley.
One of the benefits of the program is that students wanting to get a two-year associates degree in nursing at community colleges like Northwest Shoals Community College, is that they be graduate with the ability to get a CNA credential.
"So the first semester of nursing school, whether it be at Northwest Shoals, UNA, a two-year or four-year college, is CNA skills. So if you have this class, if you graduate with the CNA credential, then you’re ahead because the very first semester when I went to nursing school, that was the skills that I learned,” said Brumley.
Being able to fill that void is critical for the health care industry.
According to the 2019 National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, in 2018, CNA's had the highest turnover rate at nearly 32 percent, which was a 4.2 percent increase from the year before. Patient Care Techs (PCT) had a turnover rate of about 30 percent.
For comparison, the group with next highest turnover rate was for Registered Nurses (RN), which was just more than 17 percent.
But for many, the choice to become a CNA is not about the statistics. Cherokee High School senior Julia Sledge had a very personal reason for why she chose this path.
“My aunt was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and so I was around when she was basically dying. I hate to say that, but that’s what it was. And me and my mom would go over and help her,” said Sledge.
“She had a feeding tube in her stomach and we would help her. She was in a wheelchair and she couldn’t talk, so that sort of motivated me to go into nursing.”
Because of her work in building the program from the ground up, earlier this month Brumley was given the “New Teacher of the Year” award for Region Two by the Association for Career and Technical Education.
She’s now in the running for a national award, which will be decided on December 4.
"It’s an honor to be able to represent my students and I feel like my students have won this award because they’re the reason that I won. They're the reason that I'm here. I have great students,” said Brumley.
Brumley is continuously working on ways to improve the program. Once she completes here master’s degree, she will be able to make the CTE program dual enrollment so that student can also earn college credit.