Stormont, Topeka Public Schools team up to give students head start on health care careers

Stormont is teaching a class at USD 501's TCALC, enabling high school seniors to earn their CNA certification before graduation.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -A partnership between Stormont Vail and Topeka Public Schools is preparing high school seniors for a career after graduation, while also addressing the need for health care workers.

Topeka West High School seniors Jason Fisher and Kayleigh Humphrey are part of the class. Both already had an interest in the health care field.

“My mother actually works at Stormont Vail and she’s been a CNA for 30, 40 years now,” Jason said.

Kayleigh said she is inspired by her grandmother, as well as personal experience.

“My brother had leukemia and one thing that my mom always talks about is how amazing the nurses were at Stormont,” Kayleigh said. “I want to be that person for somebody to be their rock and help them get through the darkest times.”

When they heard a program through USD 501′s Center for Advanced Learning and Careers - known as TCALC - could help them earn their Certified Nursing Assistant certification before graduation, they didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“I was so excited. I was, like, this is my opportunity to get my foot in the door,” Kayleigh said.

“I wasn’t thinking about my career until I got into this class,” Jason said. “Now, it’s given me a bunch of ideas of where I want to be.”

Stormont Vail took on teaching the program this year. They’d already partnered with USD 501, outfitting a simulation lab. Now, Stormont’s talent development lead Leann Edington, RN, says the students will work with a variety of hospital staff, giving them even more experience than the typical CNA program.

“It’s a great resource for our whole community,” she said. “They start out learning about patients: the types of patients they’re going to be taking care of; a little bit about how to interact with those patients; how to take care of them in that role for bedside care.”

With 40 students in this semester’s class, Edington says it’s a step toward filling the need for CNAs, not just at Stormont, but in hospitals, clinics and adult care facilities around the area.

“They are the nurse’s right hand. We can’t do it without them there, so the more CNAs we can have to support our nursing staff, our respiratory staff, our clinical staff, everybody - it’s better for the patient,” she said.

Hearing from the staff also is inspiring students to think beyond this initial certification, and pursue education toward other in-demand positions, like LPNs or RNs.

“It’s made me want to do a lot more, move a lot higher,” Jason said.

No matter the ultimate goal, they’re getting a head start.

“I think it means everything - getting to know all the hospital staff before you’re even in the hospital. They know you, they know your personality, they know your work ethic,” Kayleigh said.

Edington says she’s impressed by the students’ dedication.

“It is amazing to see the changes that have happened from day one, what they’ve done, how they’ve grown, how they’ve changed, their enthusiasm,” she said.

The CNA program is free for the students.

In addition to it, Stormont also has 15 TCALC students working as interns and exploring various careers at the hospital. They had so many internship applications, they’re exploring offering more.