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New program prepares BHS students for careers in health care

In the Burnsville High School healthcare lab, life-like mannequins Hazel, Alice and Ed are well taken care of by students in the new Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program.

Students use them to learn and practice skills such as dressing, applying compression stockings, cleaning dentures, placing hearing aids, washing and brushing hair. Students also learn to modify patient positioning for decompression of pressure, measure urinary output and provide catheter hygiene care. In the CNA program, students gain basic nursing care skills and understanding of concepts necessary for delivering high-quality nursing assistant care to a variety of patients.

New this year, the CNA program is designed to prepare students for success with the state written and practical exam to earn certification. Burnsville High School students are learning the skills they'll need through a combination of classroom work, practice on mannequins, and eventually a 16-24 hour clinical experience with real patients at a long-term care facility.

Upon completion of the program and a passing score with placement on the nursing assistant registry, students could walk right into good-paying, high-demand jobs.

The CNA program is part of the Health Sciences pathway, one of several pathways at BHS created with Vision One91. A pathway is a series of classes that BHS students can take that will help them follow their interests and prepare for further study, training or work opportunities with a career field. Students in the CNA program may also earn college credit though Normandale Community College.

“The CNA programs offers incredible hands-on, real-world learning for our students,” said Principal Dave Helke. “Right at Burnsville High School, these students are preparing for certification that can lead to good-paying jobs in health care, or be on the career path to becoming a nurse, doctor, physical therapist, or other health care professional.”

As part of the Health Care Core Curriculum class that was offered as an introduction to healthcare, students create online portfolios that showcase their work and reflect on their learning. They can modify and update their information throughout their learning process and have ways to showcase themselves in a fun and current platform. They also produce a resume and cover letter to use in the job search.

The class is for 11th and 12th grade students. It’s limited to 20 students because a 10-1 ratio of students to instructors is required.

“The program is highly regulated and audited by the Minnesota Department of Health,” said teacher and chiropractor Dr. Anne Werner-Dempsey, who was part of the team at BHS that created the Healthcare Core Class and CNA program. Other team members include Lori VanderWoude, a health and wellness teacher at BHS, and Rachel Tushaus, a registered nurse. Together they bring more than 25 years of teaching and 25 years of healthcare experience to benefit students and their learning.  

A partnership with Ebenezer Ridges Care Center (associated with Fairview in Burnsville) has been an essential part of the program in providing equipment and real-world learning experiences for students.