Graduating from high school with a diploma and a medical certification is quite the opportunity for high schoolers.
The Dysart Unified School District officially will begin its Certified Nursing Assistant program for the 2021-22 school year. Willow Canyon High School, 17901 W. Lundberg St. in Surprise, is the first host campus for the program.
“The program is open to all four schools and is a senior-level program offered as a blocked class,” said Jim Grieshaber, Dysart Unified School District career and technical education director.
Willow Canyon already has a laboratory assistant program and focuses primarily on phlebotomy with students finishing with a national certification. Additionally there is a sports medicine program on campus.
The class format is 120 minutes long and requires clinical hours by the state nursing board.
Grieshaber said program planning began two years ago and the course was set to begin in 2020-21 school year, but after speaking with program partners including Sun Health and Banner Del E. Webb it was decided to hold off because of the pandemic.
“The development of our program was based on an advisory board meeting we had two years ago with businesses, the city of Surprise, the regional chamber, as well as parents and students. What came out of that meeting was DUSD needed a health care program,” he explained.
With restraints put on the program from the state board of nursing and application process, there are 17 students enrolled at this time. Grieshaber said there is a teaching classroom with a lab next door for students to practice skills.
The program requires 40 hours of clinicals, with 20 hours in long-term care and 20 hours in a hospital setting. Grieshaber said Sun Health has been out in front of this program since the beginning. He said Tahlya Visintainer, Sun Health chief operating officer, has been instrumental in getting the partnership up and running, meeting with DUSD officials every two weeks for the past year to get the program started.
Enrolled students have been looking ahead since last May, obtaining background checks, fingerprint cards and tuberculosis testing.
Registration is closed for the upcoming semester, but Grieshaber said students will be able to register in spring 2022 for the 2022-23 school year program.
“It is like having a brand new baby and we have been really excited at the district office to get the program up and going and to celebrate the steps. We have terrific programs in CTE and teachers, and then to be able to bring this type of program to offer our to our kids and a CNA certification at the end of the class,” Grieshaber said.
He said students will have a chance to sit for the licensed nursing assistant exam and the CTE program will pick up the cost the first time. Students can graduate with two certifications and have the opportunity to go to work with Sun Health. There are scholarship opportunities as well.
“I think about opportunities kids have and I feel we are fortunate to have great partnerships in the healthcare field and they have guided us and partnered with us, making sure we have equipment we need and donated a set of scrubs to our kids,” he added.
The CTE programs at Dysart are great opportunities and the new CNA program is another great pathway for students.
Reporter Jennifer Jimenez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @SCW_Independent