Becoming a CNA the Wood River Way: School nurse, ambitious students pilot program in first semester

Becoming a CNA the Wood River Way: School nurse, ambitious students pilot program in first semester

By Tyler Dahlgren

When Wood River made the decision to develop and launch a Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) Class this semester, there wasn’t much deliberation over who would lead the program in its pilot year.

They only had to look down the hall to school nurse Shelby Allan, a 2010 Wood River graduate with a wealth of real-life nursing experience. Though teaching high school students is no small endeavor, Allan was excited to take on the task.

“I’m used to educating patients,” said Allan. “In the NICU, I was teaching parents how to feed their babies and how to take care of them when they were ready to come home.”

So there has been a familiarity to this adventure into teaching, albeit faint.

Given Allan’s career path, getting a quick handle on the material was a cinch. Finding the best way to deliver curriculum to the program’s three inaugural students in a four-hour window every Wednesday, however, has been the challenge.

“It’s a totally different world,” Allan said of leading a classroom. “But my students, they’ve been wonderful.”

Joining Allan on this journey are the three brave student voyagers: seniors Tiffany Bushausen and juniors Sage Brabec and Macie Peters. Together, they’re implementing a course that could have a significant impact on both the lives of future students and the opportunistic glint of Wood River’s culture.

“Being in such close proximity to Grand Island, Kearney and Hastings, there’s so many employment opportunities in our area, places where people can go and work,” said Allan. “If we keep them in Wood River and offer that class here, maybe they’ll stay in our community. That is what we’re aiming for.”

The idea for a CNA class came to superintendent Terry Zessin a year ago. The implementation process was thorough, and included a gaging of student and family interest and also coming up with classroom resources and materials.

The course is offered through Central Community College (at a discounted rate to students), who provided the students’ books and videos. The school handled the rest, and even received hospital bed donations from a nearby hospital.

They meet every Wednesday, from 11:15 to 3:30. The first two hours are devoted to curriculum, workbook exercises and those types of things. The next two hours are meant for exploration and discovery.

“They’ve caught on quickly,” said Allan. “They are doing this on top of their other coursework. It’s not like they’re getting a free afternoon. They’re doing this in conjunction with their anatomy and physiology college class, so a lot of effort goes into managing that.”

In Allan’s classroom, it’s hands-on learning at its finest, and her students are having a blast so far.

“Since there’s only three of us, we’re really going through this experience together and helping one another out along the way,” said Brabec, whose mother is a labor and delivery nurse. “I want to do something in the health field when I get older, and this was an opportunity to gain some knowledge about the field and even some experience in it beforehand.”

It’s amazing what can be accomplished in four hours said Peters, who often leans on her sister, a nursing school student herself, for additional help and guidance.

“It’s hard with it being only once a week, but there’s plenty of time for us to cover a whole lot,” she continued. “Plus, we get to learn everything and work through everything together, which helps.”

Their instructor’s words carry weight, given the hours logged by Allan in the NICU and OB-GYN after she graduated from nursing school at UNMC in Kearney.

“She knows how to do everything and can show us exactly what we need to do,” said Peters. “She’s done it all before.”

 Allan said the community component of a school district drew her back to Wood River, where she shares her time between the elementary and high school buildings. She has four children, two in kindergarten and one in preschool, and found the setting to be more conducive to raising a family.

“I like working in the community where I live,” Allan said. “I love that I can be at the school where my kids are. It’s been wonderful. The staff I work with, from the administration down, has been great, too.”

The future of Wood River’s CNA class is an exciting one. Allan said she could accommodate up to six students as is, and her current students predict interest will grow each year the class is offered.

“I definitely think there’ll be more kids wanting to do it after this year,” said Brabec. “It’s already been a great learning experience.”

One which Wood River is proud to offer.

“Wood River is constantly looking to the future,” said Allan. “We always want to explore ways we can help students now and as they head into the rest of their lives.”