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Yarely Gomez wants to go to nursing school after she graduates from high school. However, this senior at Premier High School of Edinburg Career and Technology Education Center is getting a head start by completing a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program at her high school.

By completing the CNA program at her high school free of cost and taking the state certification test, Yarely will be able to work in the nursing field and gain helpful experience before she starts a registered nursing (RN) program. Since Premier High School of Edinburg CTE Center incorporated the CNA program into its Health Science CTE program fall of 2016, eight students have already received their CNA certification.

Carlos Cavazos, the school’s project planner, first brought the program to the school due to the increase demand for CNAs. He hopes by providing them with exposure to the medical field at no financial cost to them, students will be able to decide if they want to pursue a career in medicine before they commit to the cost of higher education.

“The program at Premier is unique because we are a small school so we can offer this opportunity to a higher percentage of interested students. We have had students come to our school because they wanted to be part of a CNA program, but they were overlooked for the opportunity at their other school,” said Mr. Cavazos.

The class consists of 100 hours of classes for four weeks taught by a teacher from McAllen Careers Institute and two weeks of clinicals at a nearby nursing home. Once they complete the program they take a state test and receive their certification. Two students from the most recent graduating class are not only working as nursing assistants at a nursing home, but they are also in a RN program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Yarely likes the CNA program at Premier because it is increasing her understanding of nursing.

“The classes are very helpful and easy to follow. In addition to learning a lot of medical terminology, I really like how we are building the skills of how to handle a patient. We covered how we should speak to patients. It can be different particularly when they are from different cultures. It is really helpful when you are actually working,” she said.

A CNA job covers a wide range of hands-on activities, from dressing wounds and taking blood pressure to  feeding patients and assisting with medical procedures. The practical experience a CNA receives not only helps students applying for nursing school but also provides them with background knowledge that will help them do well in nursing school. Financially it can also benefit nursing students by providing them with job opportunities while they are in school.

When Yarely completes her RN degree, she wants to work at a behavioral center.

“It is a way I can give back and help people for the better. There are many people out there who need help. It is enjoyable to know you are working to help fill that need,” Yarely said.

In addition to providing students with opportunities in health science, Premier High School of Edinburg CTE Center offers CTE opportunities in Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security; Arts, Audiovisual Technology and Communications; and Business, Management and Finance.  Mr. Cavazos is looking to add additional certifications in the different CTE opportunities the school provides.

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