Clatsop Care Health District is addressing the shortage of certified nursing assistants by offering a tuition-free course.
The health district has collaborated with Clatsop Community College for years to provide scholarships and clinical job training to nursing students.
“Up to this point, we’ve been relying on three to four classes coming out of the college every year and that seems to be almost enough to feed the employment needs in the community, but just barely squeaking by,” said David Miller, the administrator for Clatsop Care Health and Rehabilitation.
“There is a mutual need in this community because everybody needs to worry about the shortage, and where’s the next generation of caregivers going to come from.”
The health district includes Clatsop Care Health and Rehabilitation, Clatsop Care In-Home Services, Clatsop Care Memory Community and Clatsop Care Retirement Village.
To increase the number of certified nursing assistants, Clatsop Care is offering a free six week, in-house certified course to 10 local applicants beginning in late February.
Clatsop Care will cover the cost of all class materials, including scrubs and required license fees. Students will be employed by Clatsop Care as part of the class and receive paid compensation during their clinical period.
Students who successfully complete the course will be offered permanent employment at Clatsop Care.
“To take 10 weeks off, to pay to take a class can be a really big cost burden,” said Clarissa Johnson, the health district’s community outreach director.
By eliminating barriers, Johnson said, they hope to attract locals who otherwise would not find it feasible to pursue a career in health care.
Ideally, they hope students will stay with Clatsop Care, but Miller said even if people choose other options, Clatsop Care will still offer flexible employment on holidays, weekends or summer breaks.
“The clientele that we serve is both short term and long term,” Miller said. “So, as a new professional, you get to see more than just the broken wrist in the ER, or more than just the accident trauma site on the road. You’re now seeing someone who has gone through all that and is stable, but they’re still very fragile. It’s a quick way for a new person to see all the possibilities that the human body can go through.”
Though the work, he said, budding professionals can learn what part of caregiving they are most drawn to while serving a need in the community.
“Because we’re 71 beds, and we’re a self-imposed cap of about 34 because of the staffing shortage, there’s a number of people that call us for services that we can’t accommodate,” Miller said. “We are full almost all the time. And so those local Clatsop County citizens are going to Portland and beyond for care.”
Since they have to maintain a staff-to-patient ratio, Miller said they have to turn away people every month. He said they have resorted to using a temporary staffing agency.
“Between the four units of the district, we do our best to try to support the citizens of the community to stay in their homes as long as possible and to be as creative as we can for that goal,” Miller said.
An open house on the course is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 at Clatsop Care Health and Rehabilitation on 16th Street in Astoria.