Just a few years after partnering to bring area students the Welding Academy at New Richmond High School, WITC-New Richmond and the New Richmond School District have partnered to offer local students a chance to earn certification and credit toward a degree. This time around, students have the the opportunity to become certified as a personal care worker.
"This new relationship grew out of our successful partnership with WITC on the Welding Academy. We started to look at other high need, high interest career pathways we could help launch our high school students into. Healthcare is one of those," said high school principal Tom Wissink. "We began looking at health care-related courses and how we could offer them here at NRHS. Course instructor Jason Eckert does a nice job teaching this class and working with WITC to make sure we meet their requirements as well."
The high school course is called health care occupations. According to Eckert, two-thirds of the class is the personal care worker course with WITC and the other one-third is learning about other health occupations and covering topics related to the health field. Those topics include: basic anatomy, medical terms, legal issues and more. The course is in its second year; WITC Nursing Assistant Instructor Carol Poppy teaches the personal care worker portion of the class.
"Everybody is affected by something where the knowledge they gain from this course could be helpful to them. They are able to relate to it and that helps them realize that it does matter that they learn these things," Poppy said. "They are great students and a lot of fun to work with. This is a good partnership to be able to have that outcome with the students feeling really good about themselves after coming out of it."
According to Eckert, last year's class saw 15 students complete the PCW portion of the class, which includes 56 hours of study and an eight-hour test students need to pass in order to get their certification. Eckert said all 15 students from last year's class completed the certification, with just two students needing to retake the test to pass.
"I think the course benefits both the high school and WITC. Partnering with them gives us an opportunity to expand our health courses," Eckert said. "Our students have an opportunity to get credit through WITC and get training in something that they can immediately go out and get a job in. This also opens up the opportunity for students to get trained in CNA or promote the Nursing Assistant program at WITC."
In order to take the PCW course at WITC, students would pay $176.20 for the course. However, the students taking the course as part of the Health Care Occupations class at NRHS get the course for free.
"I am really appreciative of the collaboration with Jeanne and WITC as well as how our teachers have embraced offering these dual credit courses at NRHS," Wissink said. "We now offer 29 NRHS/WITC dual credit courses for our students. There are some outstanding, high paying careers students can get into with two-year degrees through this partnership. Once students find a job, many employers will continue to pay them to pursue their degree. There are a lot of exciting opportunities out there!"
To start the school year, Poppy taught the class about HIPAA rules and regulations, infection control and how and why you properly wash your hands. The class also looks at the resident, client and patient bill of rights and why it is important.
"When the students come here to WITC, they can use the lab. We put the students in bed and have them work on each other," Poppy said. "I put in 20 hours with the students besides what Mr. Eckart is going to put in. At the end of my 20 hours, then we will do a test at the end, which is the eight-hour test that anybody would take to be certified to be a personal care worker."
Students have several options once they complete the PCW course, including the ability to work in a home care setting as a personal care worker or go on to get more training to expand their options.
"I think high schools partnering with colleges such as WITC on these kinds of programs is a nice thing and is a good idea. First of all, I've been nursing for 36 years, but I know I can still learn something and as health care changes, we have to keep up," Poppy said. "The students come in and they have fresh ideas and who knows what department of health care they are looking at going into. It kind of sparks their appetite and lets them figure out what they might like."
This year's Health Care Occupations has grown to 22 students who have stayed with the course for the fall semester, according to Eckert.
"From what students have told me, they do like the course. Not all students in the class are interested in a health career," Eckert said. "I explain to them at the beginning of the semester what all goes into this course and I go over the skills that they will need to test out on. So even though we have some not interested in a health career, 22 students have stayed with the course this semester.
"And, Carol has been great. This semester we planned more skills training for our students. Carol does a great job of working with our students and I feel this extra training will help them be more prepared for the final skills test."