Gaining Experience

J-Term course gives hands-on look at nursing duties

For three weeks in January, students aspiring for a career in healthcare have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience working as certified nursing assistants (CNA) and learn the skills necessary to become state-certified as a CNA.

The health profession experience class is a joint effort between Loras College and Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) during Loras’ January term. Students earn CNA instruction from NICC faulty while Ulrike Schultz, director of health professions advising at Loras, provides the reflective component.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to gain experience with direct patient care throughout their undergraduate years and prepare for admission to health profession schools,” Schultz said. “Many health profession schools recommend or require direct patient care experience for applications. Most of our pre-health students end up working in nursing homes, hospitals and home care settings.”

Nate Roethler (‘22) is a pre-med student who wanted to get clinical hours under his belt before applying to medical school. Through this course, he not only earned hands-on experience working in a nursing home, but gained insight into the nursing field.

“The class showed me that CNA’s are in the trenches of the medical field, doing all of the dirty work. So, hours as a CNA are hours as a hands-on licensed medical professional doing tasks that no one else in the medical field will. This tells any graduate level program that you are prepared to do any job in the health industry if you can survive as a CNA,” he said.

While the course utilizes textbooks, the focus is on transforming the tasks and methods from the page and into real-world application. Students learn on teaching dummies before transitioning over to nursing homes to work with residents. It results in a rapid learning curve that helps the theory make more sense as it is quickly put into practice.

Schultz encourages all Loras pre-health students to take the CNA as the lectures, labs and clinical work are especially valuable. It also serves as a strong guiding post to help them determine if they are pursuing the right field. Health care professionals also speak to the class to share their experiences and provide insight into their particular fields, whether they are medical doctors, physicians assistants, therapists, nurses or something else.

“The individual growth and understanding of our students within these three weeks of class is immense, and one of the pleasures in teaching this course. Not only do our pre-health students set themselves apart as competitive applicants to health profession schools, but also become confident working with patients,” Schultz said.

For Roethler, he found the course greatly beneficial and is enthusiastic in encouraging other students to take advantage of it.

“This progression of exposure helps the student comfortably perform these tasks with real people, and because of that, I would, without hesitation, recommend this class,” he said.