By Jack Orloff
On a standard Tuesday morning, students wearing scrubs, latex gloves and face masks gather around a hospital bed observing and taking notes on a subject. A medical dummy sits nearby and healthcare-industry tools are gathered for easy access.
This is a scene you may expect to find at any medical or nursing school in the country, but it’s actually at the Graduation Preparatory Academy, which offers a free Certified Nursing Assistant Program. The program, located at the Travis Early College High School campus, gives students the qualifications and hands-on knowledge to pass the state Nursing Assistant Certification test.
"This is an awesome program because the medical field is full of opportunities," Nursing Instructor Stacie Johnson said. "Once you get your foot in the door, the sky's the limit, and you can go anywhere you want in the medical field.”
The program gives students access to the $8.45 trillion healthcare industry. The average nursing assistant earns $30,720, exceeding other jobs most high school graduates have access to, and putting them on a path toward earning their registered nurse's license.
"This is a profession they are getting into, not just a job," said Eliseo Reyna, program director. "It's a great opportunity for our kids. Often, our graduates finish school and end up working in the service industry at minimal jobs. This program allows our students to work their way up in the healthcare industry."
The program's mission is to give students the essential requirements to prepare for the state Certified Nursing Assistant test. After completing the program, students must take the state exam, which will determine their acceptance to becoming a nursing assistant.
About the Program
GPA, in partnership with the Goodwill Career and Technical Academy, implemented the state-approved accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant program two years ago. Students must complete 60 hours of classroom and lab work and 40 hours of clinical work to meet the state requirements in order to take the final exam.
The nine-week program accepts students from all zip codes. It provides a flexible schedule for students who work to support their families, who are parents or dealing with other responsibilities outside of school.
Certification classes can run anywhere from $3,000-$4,000 at universities or community colleges. GPA offers their program for free, creating pathways for all high school students no matter their background. Students must apply to the program through GPA and be accepted before beginning the program.
Students learn book work and hands-on skills in the school's newly renovated hospital room. The room features beds and equipment that come standard in hospitals. The program uses a mannequin to simulate a patient.
A Student’s Perspective
Angelina Murphy is a senior at GPA. She said that the program has helped her grow and will prepare her for a job in the healthcare industry.
"I want to be a travel nurse,” Murphy said, then she paused and thought for a moment. “No, I will be a travel nurse.”
Murphy said the program has helped her learn to get access to better job opportunities.
“The fact that it is cheap is so helpful and makes the program unique,” she said “The quality of the tools we use makes it feel like you're a nurse already even if you're not, and the hands-on experience we get gives us the skills we need to succeed in this field."
Four out of the 11 of her classmates in the program have children, and two of the 11 have more than one child at home.
"Everyone has their own little story," Murphy said. "Some are parents, and some have other jobs. The program is flexible and allows us to do what we need to do while still having this program as a backup and an opportunity for our future."
Instructor Stacie Johnson knows that the program will help give her students life-changing opportunities and the chance to pursue their dreams in the medical field.
"I love watching them grow both personally and professionally,"Johnson said. "This program is life-changing for these students because it gives them opportunities that they may not have had otherwise, and it really will change their lives for the better."
For more information on the Certified Nursing Assistant program, or if you would like to apply, please call 512-414-6635 or email GPA@AustinISD.org.