Starting a nursing journey

Three CFHS students are taking part in a Certified Nursing Assistant program put on by Southeast Service Cooperative.


Jessica Baszuro

Maddie Becker and Morgan Kasa listen intently as their instructor demonstrates urinary output.

Every child has a dream of what they want to be when they grow up. For some it’s a firefighter. Others find themselves drawn to the arts; such as acting and painting. And, of course, the young kids who aspire to be doctors can’t be forgotten about. However, as children grow up,their dreams shift a little – transforming from vague careers such as being a doctor to more specific studies such as cardiac surgery and anesthetic nursing. Fortunately, as these dreams shift, the opportunities follow. Last school year, Cannon Falls High School guidance counselor, Kirsten Hoffman, sent out a mass email to upcoming Juniors and Seniors informing them of a new program being offered in their area. Three students took advantage of this opportunity; applying, and being accepted into a Nursing Assistant program that is hoped to bring them closer to their future goals in the medical field.  

Southeastern Service Cooperative is working with students from across southeast Minnesota from ages 16 to 18 to get their Nursing Assistant certification. Nursing assistants support registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (lpns) by assisting them with every day care of residents, most often in a nursing home. CNAs are required to complete a combined 75 hours of coursework, labs, and clinicals, as it is imperative that all medical personnel, from nursing assistants to neurosurgeons, understand the basics of what their job will entail. When it comes to medicine, any error could result in a quite unfortunate outcome. While all three CFHS students: Maddie Becker, Morgan Kasa, and Jessica Baszuro, don’t aspire to stay nursing assistants very far into the future with Becker dreaming of working as a delivery nurse, Kasa finding interest in pediatric cancer care, and Baszuro being drawn to working in the ER, this is a great first step towards achieving their long term goals. Kasa agreed, stating that, “I am very excited to become a certified NA simply because it’s finally a job that is truly preparing me for what I want to do in the future.” 

The first step, online class work, takes place over the course of a little over three months and has ten units total that are set up to prepare students for the state exam that they must pass in order to become certified. This is, according to the students, the most tedious, but simple, task that getting through this program entails. Becker stated that, “The questions are so obvious. It’s easy to pass the quizzes.” However, when faced in the lab with the skills taught on the computer, it was a different story. “I don’t remember anything,” Becker laughed while struggling to make a hospital bed. Her fellow future CNAs agreed, affirming that the tasks that seemed so simple in the videos were incredibly difficult to understand while putting them into practice. With some trial and error, though, all three managed to succeed at completing the necessary tasks and got a lovely signature from their instructor, Sandra VerBout, as proof that they passed. 

I am very excited to become a certified NA simply because it’s finally a job that is truly preparing me for what I want to do in the future

— Morgan Kasa

Labs began shortly after the 5th unit was completed, as it was necessary that some skills and safety procedures were looked at before the girls could even begin thinking about physically practicing them. There were two six hour labs, the first of which took place in the Zumbrota nursing home where students are set to be working after they pass their certification exam. However, the setup there was not very conducive to learning.  The room the lab was set up in was far too warm to focus on anything, all of the required supplies seemed to be missing, and because they didn’t have mannequins, the three girls were forced to practice certain skills on each other, which really cut down on the amount of material they were able to cover. After considering their options and how that first session had gone, Mrs. VerBout determined that it would be best if the group proceeded with labs elsewhere.

The second, and final, six hour lab began at 11 am on a Saturday morning in an official Nursing Assistant lab and testing room at Southeast Technical College in Red Wing Minnesota. Walking into the room, the vibe was completely different from the previous weekend’s lab experience. The room was set up to look like a real resident’s room, with a mannequin in a hospital bed, lovingly named Walter until after peri care, when it was changed to Wendy as she was most definitely not a guy, shelves fully stocked with all of the supplies anyone could ask for, and, of course, mandarin oranges, expired for over a year, for the use of pretend feeding the residents a nutrient filled, delicious meal. Time went by much faster in the air conditioned room, and everything felt far more helpful and organized in the Red Wing facility than in Zumbrota. Kasa agreed, commenting, “Doing labs in Red Wing was much easier in that everything we needed was already there.” The group was allowed to leave early, but not until each took a turn trying on the aging suits. Jackets and pants that had weights all around them as well as plastic pieces surrounding the major joints like the elbows and knees, aging suits mimic the stress of arthritis. Topping off the outfit were foggy goggles meant to simulate cataracts and a neck brace to limit head movement. It was crazy how changing something as simple as what these young, very physically capable girls were wearing could so drastically change how their joints felt. Baszuro found herself unable to even sit down as it was so uncomfortable on her knees. The girls talked about how they immediately got the urge to give their grandparents big hugs. 

While nursing assistants do a lot of the busy work, they are essential to allow for RNs, doctors, and other medical staff to focus on the more serious aspects of health care. Becker, Kasa, and Baszuro don’t plan on staying in the nursing home forever, each of them having different pursuits, but this opportunity provided them with an experience that will be extremely beneficial to them in the long run, and will be giving them an inside look at working in the medical field. Clinicals are the next step after all ten units have been completed, which will take place at the beginning of December. They will consist of the three students shadowing and assisting their instructor as she cares for actual residents. After 32 hours of shadowing have been completed, they will be ready to take, and hopefully, pass, their state exam, completing the transition from a few high schoolers taking online classes to official nursing assistants ready to don their scrubs and get to work.