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Nursing students in the district’s Secondary Technical Education Program use COVID-19 as learning tool

(10/09/2020) From mask-wearing to social distancing, COVID-19 has created a lot of changes to our world and the way we do things. And while some of those changes may seem like anNursing assistant students at STEP work on healthcare skills inconvenience, others are able to use it as an opportunity to offer real-life experiences.


One of those experiences is happening at Anoka-Hennepin’s Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) on a daily basis. A high school in a college setting where district students in grades 11 and 12 can explore hands-on technical and manufacturing careers while earning both high school and college credit, teachers are exploring new ways to give students the practical experience they will face in the workforce.


In the nursing assistant course, led by Melissa Upton and Jessica Hemmerich, the curriculum now includes updated COVID-19 safety measures and protocols happening in healthcare facilities across the country. The class is designed to prepare students to take the state nursing assistant competency exam.


The course now includes demonstrations and practice on the proper use of face coverings, face shields, frequent and appropriate hand hygiene, disinfection of surfaces and full-length gowns are now used. Even with all of the new protocols and procedures, the main focus of each hands-on experience was patient care.


“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have streamlined our nursing assistant course to be offered fully online or hybrid so students and families can make the best decision for their family,” Hemmerich said. “Students have the opportunity to view skill demonstrations virtually or in our nursing lab.”


Students are being provided an authentic way of applying concepts and skills to what is happening every day around them, and they are able to understand the importance of infection control because of COVID-19 and can more easily apply that knowledge at home or in a healthcare setting.


Jhamelia Seid, a senior at Blaine High School, was inspired to go into nursing because she loves taking care of and helping people. “I find it satisfying to be able to help someone in need and provide them with access to good care,” Seid said.


“Having this opportunity to have hands-on tasks and learning how to operate in a healthcare setting during a pandemic. This is a great opportunity and is helping us (as nursing students) change the world and take care of those in need.”


According to Upton, the nursing assistant course provides a strong foundation for students preparing to go into the healthcare field.


“When students become nursing assistants, they can immediately get a high wage and a high-skill job,” Upton said. “This job becomes an entry point to other careers in the industry and as we know, healthcare is essential, and becoming a nursing assistant is a great place to start in the field.


View photos of students participating in a hands-on experience in the STEP program.