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Newton students get real-life CNA training

Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Newton College and Career Academy student Kai Ann Chestnut is one of the 50 students enrolled in the dual enrollment program through Georgia Piedmont Technical College this year. Students recently earned clinical hours by caring for residents at Westbury Health & Rehabilitation in Conyers, where Colleen Johns lives.

Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Newton College and Career Academy student Kai Ann Chestnut is one of the 50 students enrolled in the dual enrollment program through Georgia Piedmont Technical College this year. Students recently earned clinical hours by caring for residents at Westbury Health & Rehabilitation in Conyers, where Colleen Johns lives.

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Senior Nicole Brooks feeds a resident at Westbury, as employee Abbie Ash monitors her interaction with her. Students also worked at Madison Health & Rehabilitation in Madison.

COVINGTON -- Nearly 50 high school students will have their Certified Nursing Assistant training complete this school year, something many health care professionals usually don't do until after graduating from high school.

For the first time, the Newton County School System will have 48 junior and senior students ready to take their CNA certification exams over the summer, after completing a course at the Newton College and Career Academy.

Students started off the school year at Alcovy High School and now have moved into the permanent NCCA building beside Newton High School to finish off the year.

The students' only complaint -- they wished the program had come sooner to Newton County.

"I have always known I wanted to be in the health care profession," said senior Brittany Smith. "Ever since I was little, I told my mom I wanted to be a doctor."

Now, she is one step closer to making that dream a reality. She signed up to be in the health care science program at NCCA this school year, which is being offered through a dual enrollment program at Georgia Piedmont Technical College.

She and her fellow classmates have spent the year learning about diseases, getting information about general medical practices and terminology and taking a skills test multiple times per week to learn 86 skills, including feeding, dressing and cleaning.

Smith said one of the two instructors will have students test out their skills on mannequins on hospital beds and other props to grade them in being sanitary, timeliness and effectiveness.

"It's a lot to take in, and they're doing a really good job," said instructor Gina Roberts.

Students even recently earned 24 hours of clinical skills by assisting in caring for residents at Westbury Health & Rehabilitation in Conyers and Madison Health & Rehabilitation in Madison.

"I liked it," said senior Nykeia Bell, who wants to be an athletic trainer after attending the University of Florida. "I was a little skeptical at first, but I'd do it again."

Students said the residents seem to enjoy having them there to help bathe and feed them, paint their nails, take their vital signs and simply interact with them.

"(The class) gives you a head start," Smith said.

Instructor Susan Beal said the program is important to have in the high schools so that students get a chance to see if they really want to work in the medical field. She said most students who take CNA classes don't end up being nurses, but it's a good beginning class to learn basic medical skills.

Roberts added that more and more post-secondary institutions are requiring incoming medical students to be CNA certified even before entering the program, so this allows students to achieve that.

Students will participate in a pinning ceremony at the school on Tuesday. They will be able to sit for their state boards, which includes a written and skills test, at sites in Georgia over the summer.

The program will be expanded next school year, when the school plans to offer the Advanced Healthcare science and the Diagnostics Services pathway, according to James Woodard, principal of NCCA.