Wrangell Medical Center’s Locally Grown Certified Nursing Assistants

On Thursday, November 7, six students received a certificate of completion for Wrangell Medical Center’s (WMC) inaugural Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program. In presenting the certificates, SEARHC Vice President and WMC Hospital Administrator Leatha Merculieff saw the hospital move one step closer to its goal of a 100 percent local CNA staff by early 2020.

Graduation Celebration Honors New CNAs

The graduation ceremony was hosted in the WMC lobby, in conjunction with ASHNHA presenting quality awards to WMC Long-Term Care and WMC’s Performance Improvement Manager. Families, friends and coworkers were in attendance and treated to cake and refreshments, while members of the Wrangell Ministerial Association, City and Borough of Wrangell Assembly, and the SEARHC Board of Directors helped Merculieff honor the class that went six-for-six in acquiring state certifications.

new WMC CNA graduates
Back row (L-R) Betterton, Crowley, Merculieff, Foshay, Shilts Front (L-R) McGee, Holder

There has been a significant push by Merculieff to groom qualified staff from the local workforce to not only reduce expenses but also to provide career solutions to Wrangellites. For students Kathryn Betterton, Issabella Crowley, Stephanie Foshay, Katy Shilts, Danika McGee and Brittney Holder, this meant a tuition-free course with paid training hours and an opportunity for WMC employment pending certification.

WMC RN and CNA instructor Katrina Ottesen called this group “amazing to teach,” and continued, “The students worked hard and took full advantage of all the program had to offer. I loved this group. It was amazing to see that these ladies were proud of receiving their certifications, and considered the experience more than just a job opportunity.”

CNA Certification Program to Continue at WMC

Wrangell has built the capacity to offer a full-service training program locally and has the staff to do it. In Ottesen, WMC has a state-certified instructor in-house, and in RN Jennifer Wiederspohn, a state-certified proctor in-house. Add in the stipulations of no tuition and paid training, and suddenly WMC has a formula for a certification program accessible to all qualified Wrangell applicants.

The training program consisted of five weeks of classroom instruction and 48 hours of clinical training. The clinical training required the trainees to work four, 12-hour shifts on the floor at WMC under the guidance of Ottesen, granting each an opportunity to experience the day-to-day of a CNA in a live setting. Taking the state exam was the crowning moment of the program. In the days immediately following notification from the state that all students aced the exam, their smiling faces were clocking-in and working the floor at WMC.

Merculieff is nearing her goal of providing a 100 percent local CNA workforce. A second CNA class will begin after the new year and offer the same benefits and structure. Assuming a similar result from the 2020 graduating class, Merculieff estimates reliance on traveling CNAs will be reduced to just one percent of total hours on the floor. Interested parties can contact WMC Human Resources at 907.874.7101 for information on WMC’s upcoming CNA Training Program.

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