Nursing assistants serve where they’re needed most
As an instructor in the Nursing Assistant program at Dakota County Technical College, Brenda Arneson understands all the elements that make a great certified nursing assistant, or CNA. “Certified nursing assistants are responsible for direct patient care,” Arneson said. “CNAs typically work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse, or RN, and they often have more personal contact with individual patients than other caregivers in a health care setting. The best nursing assistants prize the one-on-one relationships they build with their patients.”
Arneson’s program combines home health aide content with nursing assistant coursework. That means students who earn the five-credit certificate are eligible to take the Minnesota state examination for nursing assistant and home health aide certification—something you couldn’t do in a program without the HHA component.
Students in DCTC Health & Human Services programs wear scrubs color-coded by program:
“As essential caregivers at hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, assisted living residences, hospices and group homes, certified nursing assistants provide expert care across the board to people in all stages of life,” Arneson said. “CNAs also help people with developmental disabilities. We go where we’re needed.”
Arneson noted that her program’s five-credit certificate is a wonderful starting point for people considering a career in health care. “The certificate is also great for professional development and cross-training,” she added. “Medical assistants, health unit coordinators, physical therapists and others can all benefit from becoming a CNA.”
Two who care
One on one
Deanna Rasmussen, 42, of Farmington, Minn., worked as a personal care assistant, or PCA, for 15 years before opting to earn her nursing assistant certificate at DCTC. Rasmussen specialized in home care for disabled patients. Building relationships one on one has always been the foundation of her work. She provided 100 percent total care to Cullen Hamilton, a young man born with arteriovenous malformation who later suffered a stroke during brain surgery.
“I cared for Cullen as his PCA for five years,” Rasmussen said. “We became great friends. Cullen was only twenty-four when he died.”
“Working on on one with patients is what I love most. I especially enjoy providing care in a home environment.”
On the day Rasmussen signed up for the Nursing Assistant program, her 94-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Kalleberg, broke her hip and required home care. Rasmussen accepted the full-time role of caring for her grandmother even as she tried to carry on with her classwork. Eventually, Brenda Arneson advised her to take an incomplete and pick up where she left off in the next session. Rasmussen, who is also a single mother with a 6-year-old daughter named Natalia, took Arneson’s advice and graduated from the program this spring.
“My grandmother passed away this year,” Rasmussen said, “but I really appreciated the opportunity to take care of her. I’m glad I was able to complete the program even under such trying circumstances. Getting my certificate has always been in the back of my mind. As a CNA, I’m looking forward to a career providing one-on-one care to special needs patients in their home or a hospice setting.”
A nice mix
As a dental assistant with a career spanning 15 years, Terri Koy began experiencing hand pain linked to her duties on the job. Koy, 49, loved working with patients and wanted to continue serving in a health care field. Her own patients suggested she look into a career as a medical assistant. That suggestion brought her to the Medical Assistant program at DCTC. She graduated May 2011 with her A.A.S. degree and through her externship is already working at Fairview Ridge Valley Clinic in Prior Lake, Minn.
During her time as a dental assistant, Koy found she greatly enjoyed working with senior clientele. “Once a month, I would go with a dentist to a nursing home and work with senior patients,” she said. “They were my favorite patients and our visit to the nursing home was my favorite day of the month.”
“I love working with seniors and my training as a dental, nursing and medical assistant gives me more ways to serve. It’s a nice mix.” —Terri Koy
Discovering how much she liked working with seniors led Koy to add the Nursing Assistant certificate to her résumé. She graduated from that program in 2010 while still in the Medical Assistant program. “We have a retirement home in Ely near the Boundary Waters,” said Koy, who resides with her husband in Lakeville, Minn. “I also work part-time in a senior assisted living facility attached the hospital in Ely. In the Nursing Assistant program, students go in depth into ambulation for seniors and bed transferring skills. Getting my nursing assistant certificate was a fantastic move for me.”
For more information about the Nursing Assistant program at DCTC, contact:
- Brenda Arneson
Nursing Assistant Instructor