In the January 2017 issue of Harbor Light, we introduced the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) clinicals program from Suncoast Technical College (STC) that is partnering with our Smith Care Center. Now, we’d like to introduce STC’s Certified Nursing Assistant program, which began working with the SCC at the end of February.

This program, known as the Health Careers Program, is the first step toward a future in nursing for many students. The program works with high school juniors and seniors from schools across the county who are interested in both nursing and overall healthcare.

In their first semester, students learn about the broader spectrum of healthcare; in their second semester, they focus on nursing curriculum. During this time, students perform clinicals for the period of one month at various facilities in the area, including Plymouth Harbor — spending half the day on their school campus and the other half performing clinicals. At the completion of the program, students have the option to take the state CNA Exam. While many choose this option, others decide to further their nursing education and enroll in STC’s LPN program.

According to Clinical Instructor Linda Hart, RN, MSN, STC is the only high school program that offers training in hands-on patient care. Linda joined STC 16 years ago, and throughout the years, she has seen the program grow from three students to over 160. Today, the program has anywhere from nine to 13 students onsite with instructors. In the SCC, students are paired with a CNA, and are able to assist with items such as denture care, hair and nail care, range-of-motion exercises, meal assistance, and more. “It’s a natural fit because many of Plymouth Harbor’s nurses graduated from this program,” Linda says.

Karen Novak, SCC Director of Health Services, adds, “Care is the essence of nursing and the dominant, distinctive, and unifying feature.” She goes on to say that care is taught day-by-day by working with the novice learner. Stepping into a new environment can overwhelm anyone, but the nurses in the SCC help to guide STC’s students through their first experiences in healthcare, giving them permission to ask questions, seek out answers, and learn as much as possible in the process.

“It’s the joy of my life. This program changes our students’ lives,” Linda says. “It gives them confidence and a purpose for learning — what a gift.”