Eastern Plumas Health Care began a new in-house training program for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) on Dec. 3.
This pilot program is the brainchild of Deborah Mancebo, director of Staff Development for EPHC’s two skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Recruiting and retaining enough qualified CNAs is an ongoing problem for rural and remote hospital like EPHC, so this program offers the perfect antidote.
Because the need was so great, Mancebo contacted California’s Department of Public Health and worked with them to create a program for EPHC that fits its guidelines. She will also be teaching the course.
Training as a CNA is a great starting point for a lifelong career, as Deborah herself can attest. “I’m a model of, ‘This is what you can do with your life,’” said Mancebo. She moved back to Plumas County to “start over,” first becoming a CNA, then receiving her Social Services Designee certification. After that, she became a Certified Licensed Vocational Nurse, and finally, she received her certification to teach and became a director of staff development. She has encouraged EPHC employees who are interested in a career with the “possibility of numerous roads to advancement” to apply for the course.
This first time out, she’ll be taking eight students, and they’ll be a mix of five staff and three community members. Mancebo said she limited the number from each internal department so she “didn’t drain the departments.” This is a “fast track” program — six weeks long, five days per week. It’s “pretty strict,” said Mancebo. Students will be allowed one absence, and three tardies is equal to one absence. This “lets us know who will be committed,” added Mancebo.
The benefits are many. All of the students get paid to go to school. EPHC staff members are guaranteed their previous jobs back if the program doesn’t prove to be a good fit. As soon as students become certified, they’ll get hired full time and they’ll receive a pay increase. Further, every student will be provided with books, a watch, a stethoscope, three uniforms and some money toward the purchase of shoes.
In addition, Mancebo has received a $10,000 Kickstart Grant. The grant follows five students’ grades and achievement throughout the course. It will pay for their schooling and their wages, as well as their certification testing. Furthermore, when they complete a year of employment at EPHC, they’ll each receive a bonus.
Mancebo is proud of her pilot program. She had to write all modules of the course — both theory and clinical. The theory portion will be taught in a classroom environment, and the clinical portion will be “hands on” in EPHC’s skilled nursing unit in Portola.
Mancebo is enthusiastic, both because she loves teaching (she teaches continuing education and orientation for all new hires at both SNFs), and because she is passionate about her chosen career path. “It’s an endless possibility once you get your CNA — it is almost unbelievable,” she said.
That said, she is looking for someone who is truly invested in this career; this work requires dedication. Recruits are expected to be available to work at either the Portola or Loyalton location, and “they know it snows,” she said. Also, they might have to work either a day or night shift. According to Mancebo, “when you get employed in this realm, your middle name becomes flex. I want the hungry ones who are flexible.”
Along with dedication, this work requires compassion. “It’s rewarding and emotionally draining,” said Mancebo. “You fall in love with them [residents] like they’re your grandfather or grandmother. You have to have that compassion, or it’s not for you. All in all, our staff will volunteer and sit with people on their time off who don’t have family. That’s compassion — that’s the person we want working for us.”
Mancebo said she had 17 people apply for this first course, and she did very little advertising. The next time around, she wants to make sure the public is aware of this opportunity. She suggested to people who are looking for a job and are thinking about a career in skilled nursing to “come and work for us,” in any capacity. And, while they’re working they can come to the skilled nursing unit, “see the CNAs, get a feel for it, and ask themselves, ‘Can I do this job? Do I want to do this job?’”
For more information about the new CNA course, call Deborah Mancebo at 832-6674.