GHS offers new CNA certification program

Shayne Mazur

Among the new class offerings at Greybull High School this year is a CNA certification program taught by school nurse Tracy Boyer, which gives students the opportunity to earn a CNA license by the end of the school year.

A CNA, or Certified Nursing Assistant, works in a hospital or long-term care facility and assists nursing staff with patient care. Their primary responsibilities are to assist activities of daily living, including feeding, dressing, hygiene and exercise.

“The nurses and healthcare staff really look to them…they play a huge role in providing patient care,” Boyer explained.

Boyer said a CNA class has been in the works for a few years now, with her and GHS principal Ty Flock buckling down last August to implement the program in the district.

The process was slow-going. Boyer had to get certified through the state of Wyoming and Northwest College, who the district is partnering with so students can earn college credit and complete their certification test.

The course is available to students 16 and older with seniors and juniors receiving priority, especially this first time around. Ten seniors and four juniors are currently enrolled, with 13 girls and one boy making up the class.

“Hopefully we can get rid of that stigma,” Boyer said. “It’s okay for women to be welders and it’s okay for men to be CNAs or nurses.”

Boyer cited student interest and local and nationwide shortages in the healthcare field as the primary reasons she’s teaching the class. She has experienced the effects of staff shortages up close while working at Wyoming Retirement Center (WRC) in Basin and Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center during summer and holiday breaks.

“When you look at our area alone, but also nationwide, there’s such a shortage and such a need,” she said. “And college isn’t for everybody. So if there’s this other option for them, I think it’s a great thing to offer, for students to graduate and have a decent career right out of high school.”

Boyer said most of her students have expressed an interest in going into a healthcare or medical field. Some were simply interested in what the class covered.

“But even if healthcare isn’t your dream, you can still get certified and work as a CNA in the summer or while going to school. You will always have that certificate you could fall back on to work if need be. 

“Like I said, nationwide, there’s a need. They would have no problem finding a job,” she said.

The class has been divided into two semesters. The first will focus on coursework and the second on lab and clinical requirements. Coursework will cover subjects like long-term care, medical terminology, basic first aid, assisting with daily activities and recording vital signs. There will also be a unit on special care concerns, such as caring for people with dementia or who are dying.

During the second semester, students will split their skills labs and clinical time between WRC and Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. Boyer stressed the importance of students learning to employ sensitivity when working with elderly patients.

“That just comes with practice. Experience is key,” she said.

To earn their CNA license, students have to earn 74% or better on their coursework and meet expectations for a specific number of hours in lab and clinical time. If students pass both semesters, they can test to receive their CNA certification in the state of Wyoming.

“I want to make sure that when they go into the clinical setting or into their role as a CNA that they’re the best that there is,” Boyer said. “We’re not just doing the bare minimum. I want them to go in and I want people to say, ‘That person was a graduate from Greybull High School.’

“If this is a successful program, I would like to see it continue for many years,” Boyer added.