Prior to the pandemic, an increased need for more healthcare professionals to join the workforce already existed. With the added strain put on the medical professional and hospital staff due to COVID-19, the shortage of practicing healthcare professionals in our state and nationwide has become worse. While nurses and healthcare professionals throughout New York have worked tirelessly on the front lines throughout the state and remain dedicated to their jobs, they could all use some added help from new professionals joining the field. In Monroe County, government officials have been working to solve this problem, forging a sound partnership with Monroe Community College to do so.
In October, Monroe County awarded $550,000 through the CARES Act to help MCC develop, implement, and manage a workforce development partnership, Mpower Healthcare, with the goal of training healthcare workers and providing avenues for employment–especially for individuals who became unemployed as a result of COVID-19. The training is free of charge, with plans to educate roughly 330 students each year who are interested in pursuing CNA, HHA, and LPN programs.
More specifically, the partnership and funding will go toward supporting the cost of equipment, instructor pay, student tuition, books, curriculum development, and more. Students will have the option to receive their training in hospital, nursing home, and at-home settings, thanks to partners such as Friendly Home, St. Ann’s, Highlands Living Center, Highlands at Brighton, Monroe Community Hospital, and others.
Already, one such student, Rashad Stanin, has begun the program and spoke with us about what the experience is like. Stanin shared that he was drawn to the program due to his job working in the kitchen at a local nupsing home setting for roughly five years. Wanting to move up in the ranks professionally, he saw that there was a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at Monroe Community College. Previously working at St. Ann’s sparked his interest in pursuing the CNA program, as he tells us, “it was right in my face–how could I turn it down?” Plus, the added benefit of the classes being paid for was a huge bonus.
Additionally, being a CNA and working in the medical field runs in Stanin’s family and social circle. Several of his friends are CNAs, and Stanin went to them for advice; they shared that it could be a hard job at times, but as long as you’re passionate, you won’t mind the work. Additionally, Stanin’s mother is a LPN, and she ultimately was the driving force behind him entering the CNA program.
Stanin found that having a general interest in healthcare helped him do well in the classes and gave him confidence in looking down the road toward the LPN program. First, though, he had to complete coursework toward his CNA certification, which transitioned online due to COVID-19.
Stanin shares that he learned a lot of information regarding COVID-19 safety and wearing protective equipment. “They teach you how to be safe in the program,” he reflects. Plus, the program already had built in lessons on being prepared to deal with viruses and outbreaks outside of COVID-19, focusing on things such as washing your hands for over 20 seconds, wearing protective equipment while on the job, disposing of gloves after working with a patient, and being very mindful of keeping things clean when working with elderly populations. Stanin was able to take all of this knowledge to the nursing home and get hands-on experience in interacting with and taking care of patients.
Another element that he learned through his coursework and the opportunity of working at a nursing home was accounting for patients’ mental health. In elderly patients, there is a higher risk of having diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, which can greatly affect one’s mental state. Stanin shares that his classes and training have taught him how to work with those patients differently and how best to speak with them. “You don’t want to treat them like babies, you want them to be able to do as much as they can by themselves so that they have that sense that they’re an adult and not a child, ” he tells us.
Most importantly, Stanin shares this piece of advice for entering this field, “If you want to enter the CNA program, you have to have a passion for helping people, it’s not an easy job, but you have to have the passion for it.”
Monroe County Executive Adam J. Bello shared his thoughts about the overall impact the program will have on students like Rashad and the county, “Mpower Healthcare will not only provide great training for anyone looking to get into the medical care field, it will also put them on a successful career path by linking them to prospective employers throughout Monroe County. This truly is a win-win for our entire community.”
Julie is the assistant director for student mental health and wellness for SUNY System Administration.