A year after creating its own training program for state-tested nurse’s aides, Birchaven Village has seen improvements in associate recruitment, as well as daily life for associates and residents alike.
After some other training programs had ceased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, associates at Birchaven were inspired to create a home-grown program to ensure regular opportunities for quality training for STNAs.
Students receive a nurse aide scholarship, ensuring their education is at no cost to them. Participants also are hired as BVHS associates upon joining the program, so they are earning a wage as soon as they begin.
Graduates are now employed at Birchaven in Findlay and at Independence House in Fostoria, both divisions of Blanchard Valley Health System.
A state-tested nurse’s aide physically cares for people who cannot care for themselves.
“STNAs play a vital role in caring for our residents,” said Jeannie Ricker, RN, director of clinical operations at Birchaven and Independence House. “The contributions of these valuable associates improve the work days of other team members at Birchaven and Independence House. Even more importantly, they help ensure that residents receive the best care possible.”
Nurse educators Teressa Stein, RN, and Brittany Rump, RN, created a curriculum from the ground up. The program received state approval on Oct. 1, 2022.
Many of the STNAs who received their training at BVHS have continued to stay with the organization. In fact, more than 30 graduates of the program have gone on to be employed at either Birchaven or Independence House.
Students have ranged from teenagers and young adults beginning their careers, to others for whom this is a second career. Stein, who was an STNA herself for many years, said some of the younger STNAs may eventually choose to go on to another profession in the medical field, as she did, and STNA training is a good foundation for a healthcare career.
“The biggest thing applicants need is not a particular skill set, but compassion and a caring heart,” Stein said. “We can teach them what they need to know, but we know our residents deserve the best people taking care of them, so we look for applicants who are kind and dedicated to begin with.”
Stein said she has enjoyed seeing students gain in confidence as they go through the program.
Rump said that, working on the floor, she can see how graduates of this program have taken their training to heart.
“Seeing these students grow into trained STNAs is rewarding,” she said. “We are truly seeing how this program helps lay the foundation for their work as skilled, confident STNAs.”
One graduate of the program, now a full-time STNA at Birchaven, is CJ Forster. She had previously worked in the field of developmental disabilities, and has had an interest in caring for others her entire life, having also cared for family members. Forster sought out the STNA training program in an effort to grow her skills and expand her career.
“I learned so much, and I am finding the residents and the other associates so rewarding to spend time with. Sometimes the residents don’t have family here,” Forster said. “So, we are in a sense their family. We cheer them on as they get better over time, and we listen to what they have to share if they’re having a hard day, too. In this work I get to hear so many stories – the residents have lived such incredible lives.”
Applications are still open for the STNA scholarship. Applicants must be at least 16 years old, and the training takes two weeks. For more information, please visit https://bvhs.info/STNAJobBirch (for Birchaven) or https://bvhs.info/STNAJobIH (for Independence House).