Program aimed at meeting growing critical demand
Trained health care providers are in high demand everywhere, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. But in the Methow Valley the area’s aging population has an immediate need for more caregivers, both in-home and in locations like Jamie’s Place.
Partly as a way to boost caregiver numbers in the valley, and also to encourage students to pursue careers in health care, Methow Valley School District and Jamie’s Place are partnering to create a Health Care Aide (HCA) internship and certification training.
“I never struggle for jobs,” said private Methow Valley caregiver Crystal Blum “There’s such a shortage in the Methow Valley of caregivers.”
Rana Clarke, a registered nurse and executive director of Jamie’s Place, also talked about the flexibility and job security in nursing.
“Health care in general, with our aging population … the demand is high now and it will continue to be high,” she said.
Clark and Blum spoke along with other Jamie’s Place board members and staff in a recent presentation to students at Liberty Bell High School.
Students interested in the program would start with a job shadow at Jamie’s Place in January. If they’re still interested in the health care aide certification, they can enroll in the internship for spring semester, said the MVSD’s Career and Technical Education coordinator Grant Storey.
“The idea is if you’re really interested in the certification process we would build a place in your schedule … so you would be doing the online training in school,” he said, during the meeting at the school.
Jamie’s Place board President Leslie Tregillus said a grant from the state Department of Health is making the program possible this year, along with other grants the school applied for. Tregillus said Patty Spencer, the head of the workforce development committee for SASH — the Senior Assessment for Support and Housing group formed earlier this year to assess housing needs of the area’s growing senior population — provided much energy to the project.
Path to a profession
Among other findings, SASH concluded this year that by 2025, 200 valley residents will need a home-based caregiver at least part time.
Jamie’s Place Associate Director Jessica Kulsrud will be the skills trainer for the students.
“We are also hoping to help create a formal health career program through the Career and Technical Education program at the High School, headed by Grant Storey, in the future,” Tregillus said.
Mallory Brandenburg, a 2010 LBHS grad, is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Jamie’s Place. She explained that becoming a CNA is the next step after getting an HCA certification, and is required for admission to nursing school.
At Jamie’s Place, Brandenburg said she spends a lot of time cooking for residents and providing them companionship. She listens to their stories, helps them move safely and prevents falls, and can help administer medication.
She said the job can be difficult, especially when providing end-of-life care, but said it’s also incredibly rewarding.
“They become really close, like family,” she said.
Students who complete the HCA course can choose to go on to get their CNA license, and the experience will give them a leg up in training for any medical profession, Clarke said, regardless of whether a student wants to work as a caregiver in the long-term.
“I started as a CNA at 18 and immediately started working at a hospital,” she said. “It’s not going to get any easier to have this opportunity in your life so if you’re thinking of any type of healthcare career at all, I would highly recommend something like this.”
Students must show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination by the start of their job shadow. The first year of the program will have room for a maximum of eight students from either Liberty Bell High School or the Independent Learning Center.
Students interested in signing up can contact Storey at the school or at firstname.lastname@example.org.