REEDLEY – Starting in January, Reedley College and Valley ROP will partner to assist certified nursing assistant (CNA) students who are English language learners to help them become fluent both in English and in medical terminology.
Students enrolled in the program will complete 200 hours of English as a Second Language (ESL) coursework and 200 hours of CNA coursework.
“This is quite a commitment for the student. They’ll have to devote 400 to 450 hours to the program. It will be an everyday program, including Saturdays,” said Valley ROP Superintendent Fabrizio Lafaro.
Like the perennial nursing shortage in California, the state has an ongoing shortage of CNAs. Lafaro said the reason has more to do with turnover than with lack of workers.
“CNA is usually a steppingstone to get into an LVN program, an RN program or other careers within health sciences,” he said. “Fifteen years ago, CNAs used to stay in that role. Now it’s a quick turnaround.
Lafaro said now CNAs stay in their role for a year to three years before moving up in the health science ladder. Because CNA is the first level of care in the field, he said the program constantly needs to recruit new CNAs, because students who took the CNA course in the previous year, or the year before that, are now RNs or LVNs.
“It’s an open door,” Lafaro said about the CNA career path. “It’s for them to get into the profession, and then see what other occupations they want.”
According to Lafaro, Valley ROP will run both the CNA and ESL instruction. He said the ESL classes will be built around the CNA curriculum to assist students in learning both English and medical terminology. The instructor who teaches the ESL class also teaches in Reedley College’s translation program, and is well-versed in health sciences.
Reedley College and Valley ROP are also part of the South Region Consortium for Adult Education. Lafaro said the two institutions collaborate on outreach for students.
“We share instructors (with Reedley),” said Lafaro.
Anyone who has studied a foreign language knows that in order to learn the language, a person must speak it each day and be exposed to it each day. Lafaro said the same holds true for understanding medical terminology.
“What we hear from employers is they want more bilingual employees,” said Lafaro. “For a student to grasp the language, they need to be speaking the language. The best way for them to do that is to be in the workplace or somewhere where they have to use the language every day; and the medical terminology.”
Lafaro said possessing a CNA license is the first step for anyone looking to move onto other fields in the health sciences.
“To get into an LVN program, a student must have a CNA license. To get into an RN program, most RN programs are seeking applicants that have an LVN license or CNA. Those are things that have started to get embedded into those,” he said.
Most CNAs begin their careers working in nursing homes, convalescent homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities. Lafaro said Valley ROP works with three long-term care facilities in Reedley. They also supply CNAs to two facilities in Sanger and one in Dinuba.