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The nation’s first advanced and accredited Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are set to graduate from a pioneering year-long program. Six hospitals in eastern Maine, led by Mount Desert Island Hospital in Bar Harbor, and Eastern Maine Community College, created the Experienced CNA program to improve patient care within the CNA scope of practice. It is considered to be the first program of its kind in the country to provide advanced, accredited training to CNAs.

A total of 14 students representing each participating hospital will accept their advanced certification at a graduation ceremony on Nov. 27 at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor.

“Graduates of this program are better able to perform the duties of their job with increased levels of patient care and patient safety,” said MDI Hospital’s Director of Education Jeff Boal, who drafted the program’s curriculum. “This adds formal education to allow these Experienced CNA’s to practice at the top end of their license.”

Ensuring they have the skills and knowledge they need to fulfill their nursing duties is at the core of the program but as the program progressed, Boal said, other, more broad-based objectives became clear. “Now that they’re completing this program, they have a much stronger sense of pride, duty and self worth,” Boal said. “It’s a formal way we’re saying ‘We recognize you for the contributions you make to your organization and to the patients you care for.”

Certified Nursing Assistants are on the frontline of health care. Their primary role in many facilities is to provide assistance with daily living and medical care such as taking vital signs.  In many cases, they provide the physical labor of patient care.

The Experienced CNA program is a collaborative effort between the Health Care Sector Grant Fund, Region 2 of the State of Maine, and the education department at MDI Hospital. Partner hospitals in the region include Maine Coast Memorial in Ellsworth, Blue Hill Memorial, Down East Community in Machias, Mayo Regional in Dover-Foxcroft, and Charles Dean Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

One requirement of the federal grant that funded the creation of the program was that it had to have demonstrable benefits to those who participate. In addition to pay raises, Boal said many students feel they have validated their profession to themselves. “It’s a milestone,” he said. “They’re about to graduate from something that never existed before, which is inspiring.”

Now that program is in place, the emphasis will be to ensure it becomes a part of the community college system so that it is available for other CNA’s to enhance their skills and knowledge base. Boal is currently working with educators at EMCC to establish a place in the course catalog for Experienced CNA training for future classes to expand their skills and establish their place firmly within the health care system today and into the future.

Photo Caption:
Back row, left to right
Jeff Boal - Director of Education MDI Hospital - Experienced CNA Program Director
Nathaniel Wing - CA Dean Hospital
Earl Mackie - MDI Hospital

Front Row, left to right
Cheryl Kolowziej  MDI Hospital
Yvonne Tabb  MDI Hospital
Audrey Hanley  MDI Hospital
Ellen Hooper BHMH
Heather Wright DECH
Betty Robshaw BHMH
Sandy Sikes CA Dean Hospital
Laurie Cline DECH
Cammy Edgecomb MCHM
Mary-Alice Gott MCMH
Kelly Cooper Mayo Regional Hospital

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