A Laerdal training ‘manikin’ is displayed Wednesday during the official opening of St. Thomas More Hospital’s Education Center in Florence. (Sara Knuth / Daily Record)
FLORENCE — Jessica Pritt wanted to be a certified nursing assistant as soon as she graduated from high school. But after having children, her plans changed and she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting instead.
So, when she found out last year that St. Thomas More Hospital would begin offering a CNA training program, she enrolled in the first class.
Just a few months later, she works at the hospital in multiple departments.
“I love it,” Pritt said. “I can actually say I love my job now.”
She was among a small crowd of hospital employees and community officials who celebrated the new St. Thomas More Education Center on Wednesday in Florence. The faith-based hospital hosted a dedication and blessing by chaplain Joe Garkovich at the facility, located at 521 W. Fifth St.
Outside of the CNA program, the center is intended to offer medical training to a variety of professionals.
Jim Woodard, the hospital’s chief nursing officer, said the process started last year as a way to create more educational opportunities for students, St. Thomas More staff members, law enforcement officials and other community members who need medical training.
“Programming like that was just hard to come by in finding the space,” Woodard said, adding that previously, medical professionals had to travel miles away to receive up-to-date training.
Throughout the facility, the hospital offers a computer lab, classroom space and rooms with robotic Laerdal patients that can simulate medical situations.
The classes and resources offered locally also include nurse residency, electronic record training, heart attack training, basic life support, preceptor training, pediatric advanced life support and trauma nursing. In addition, the space is available as a place for meetings.
Before the St. Thomas More Education Center, programs like that, and CNAs themselves, were hard to come by, said Marsha Bell, the program’s lead instructor.
“Us in the hospital, the nursing home and a lot of the surrounding nursing homes, were struggling finding high-quality CNAs,” she said, later adding that only one local option existed prior to the program. “All of them were in agreement that CNAs are a hard position to fill.”
Since kicking off the training program earlier this year, three classes have graduated and most of them are working in the field.
Getting to that point was the result of a lot of support from donors, said Christi-Marie Butler, the hospital foundation’s group director for development.
“As the foundation, I focus on entirely on what the hospital needs to make this happen,” she said, adding that those needs are still growing with $45,000 still to go to implement more resources at the center. “What you’re seeing right now was made through major gifts and a request.”
Additionally, she said, local philanthropists and about 40 percent of the hospital’s employees contributed to the funding effort.
Upcoming CNA classes are scheduled for Sept. 11, Jan. 8, April 9, July 9 and run for five weeks each. For more information, the center can be contacted at STMeducationcenter@centura.org.
Sara Knuth: 719-276-7644, firstname.lastname@example.org