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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell students gain health care skills as nursing assistants in training


Grinnell students interested in health professions have a new opportunity to gain experience and a certification at the Mayflower Community. The program, which ran for the first time last summer, sees students taking courses, receiving practical instruction and then working with the community’s older residents to gain practice and experience.

“It was a fun time,” said Onyin Onuegbu ’23, who completed the program this month. “It has honestly widened my scope of practice and my knowledge in the health care field, especially in caring for the elderly residents.”

The second run of the program took place between Jan. 3 and Jan. 17. The course culminates in a certification exam—students who pass become Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs. Until now, the program has consisted of 75 hours of training, but according to Vickie Wieck, the program coordinator at Mayflower Community, this will increase to 90 hours this summer.


Following the classroom time, students “do what’s called lab time, … where they learn the basics, CNA 101 skills. That’s hands-on, I’m there with them,” said Wieck. “We learn anything from making a bed to oral care, denture care, feeding [residents], moving them—all the skills that they would need when they come into the workforce.”

For many of the student participants, learning these health care basics is an important steppingstone to a career in medicine.

“Currently I’m a pre-health student. … I’m interested in health disparities and access to health necessities, so I figured a CNA is a good way to get patient interaction and … [to do] work with my hands instead of just reading and learning about things,” said Danielle Mydlo ’22, another student who participated in the program this winter.

Gretchen Schreiner ’20, who was among the first group of students to do the certification this summer, took advantage of the program by connecting it to her studies at Grinnell: “I went on to conduct sociology research on aging and dying at Mayflower this summer to suggest policy changes,” she wrote in an email to The S&B. “Combining this research experience with the CNA program allowed me to explore my interests in public health and holistic medicine, while also complementing my biology and sociology majors,”

All the interviewed student participants agreed that the program was a beneficial learning experience.

“[I learned that] you have to be careful, because these patients are fragile,” said Onuegbu. “You also have to give them your respect, because they have lived through life, they know more than you do. It’s all about humbling yourself and making sure that you have fun while you do it.”

For the Mayflower community, though, the training program is just the beginning of a longer process.

“[We have] 19 of the students that will now not only begin using their experience and increasing their opportunities for post-grad education and for educational opportunities, we also have a workforce,” said Kellie McGriff, associate director and administrator at the Mayflower Community. Once they have completed the program, students go on to work for Mayflower during their next few years at the College.

“They made it a requirement this time to work 16 hours a month [after the end of the training],” said Mydlo. “I used to work at the Grill, but now, most of my hours will be at the Mayflower; I think I’m going to work like 15 hours a week there.”

The Mayflower Community plans to offer the training course again this summer. Applications should be available during the spring semester. According to McGriff, about half of applicants are accepted to the program. The collaboration is handled at Grinnell by Mary Jane Shroyer at the CLS.

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    Bob MannJan 24, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Ben, this is a well-written piece–concise and information-packed. Thank you for this work.
    Bob Mann, The Mayflower Community