CNA class opens doors for high school students

The CNA classroom is ready to welcome students this fall.

This year, Kodiak High School will offer new technical classes, which will include cosmetology, fire science and metal arts. Among the new courses is a Certified Nurse Assistant training, which will give high school students the opportunity to gain real-world experience as CNAs, providing basic care to patients in Kodiak.

KHS Principal Mel LeVan said it’s important to increase the number of career and technical education programs at the high school, to ensure that every student is on track to access challenging opportunities after high school.

“We want programs in place that every student has an opportunity to access,” he said. “With many of these courses, they could literally get a job.”

LeVan said that he is excited about the CNA program, which will allow high school students to complete a one-semester class and then immediately be able to gain employment as CNAs. 

“They can also use it as a stepping stone to go off to nursing school, and there’s a lot to be said for that,” LeVan said. “It’s dual purpose, because in principle a student could get CNA certified, almost choose never to work in that and go directly after high school into a nursing program, and be lightyears ahead of a student who walks in without that experience.”

The class will have what LeVan calls an “aggressive” curriculum, equivalent to more than two regular high school classes. Lessons will begin during the high school’s seventh period and extend beyond the regular school day, with hours added on evenings and Saturdays to get clinical experience at Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center and the Elder House.

“They will be working with actual living, breathing human beings, and all of the things you see in a hospital situation,” LeVan said.

In order to be certified, the program requires a minimum of 48 clinical hours, where students are guided by professionals. But the KHS program will offer twice that number of clinical hours, in order to ensure student success. 

“Usually when high schoolers attempt college-level or job-level classes like that, they need more time,” LeVan said. 

The course will culminate with a rigorous exam in order for students to receive CNA certification. While the program is demanding, LeVan said he is confident that there will be a cohort of students that is up to the task.

“I think we have a group of students who, given the opportunity, are going to jump to want to do this,” he said.

The class size will be limited to 10 students, and due to the maturity level that’s required for success in the program, the class will have a cutoff of 16 years or older. Seniors will be given priority in the enrollment process. In order to be admitted, students will be interviewed by Sonia Egdorf, a registered nurse, who will be teaching the class.

“Students need to be mature enough to handle the content of the class and handle the final exam,” Egdorf said. In order for the program to maintain its certification, students must maintain an 80% pass rate on the final certification exam. “It’s super important that they’re serious about the program.”

Egdorf said planning the class, a process that took place over the summer, was a lot of work, but that she is looking forward to teaching. She will be juggling her new position with her role as a chemotherapy nurse at Providence.

“One of my main reasons for teaching is to ignite a passion for health care in our youth, and in turn have an effect on the future of health care,” said Egdorf, who is a cancer survivor. “As a previous patient, I know there is room for improvement, but also individuals to aspire to.”

In order to teach the class, Egdorf received a type M certification, which allows trained professionals to teach technical classes in the school district. 

“For me, The CNA program is exciting because it’s kind of like the foundational support for all nursing. If they start out in the medical field, and they have the CNA as a foundation, it really sets them up for success, and being able to care for people appropriately, to develop patient rapport. It’s just kind of an icebreaker into the medical field,” she said.

Egdorf completed CNA training while in high school in Sheldon, Iowa. She began attending nursing school, but had to take a break when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Egdorf moved to Kodiak in 2009 and finished her nursing education at Kodiak College, graduating in 2014. 

While Kodiak College also runs a CNA program, it is limited to 10 students per year.

“So if high schoolers are vying for some of those spots, they may take away space from interested adults,” Egdorf said, adding that KHS students have enrolled in the college CNA program before.

Egdorf said there is a need for more CNAs in Kodiak, and the new KHS program will benefit the community.

“There are so many different needs for CNAs here, anywhere from home health aides to the clinics downtown,” she said. “It’s a great certification to have.” 

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