By Laura Tester
Thirteen students in Stettler will graduate with a healthcare-aide certificate from Red Deer College — before they graduate from high school.
Since September 2011, four Grade 12 and nine Grade 9 students from William E. Hay Composite High School have been taking a health-care-aide class through the college.
Rhonda Brown, the career practitioner at the high school and the one who helps administer the program, said the program has been a success.
“When Red Deer College was contracted to provide instruction, we started with 13 students and we’ll finish with 13,” Brown said.
The course consists of a classroom and lab instruction, plus supervised clinical and a preceptored clinical practicum.
The pilot was launched through Prairie Land Regional Division, which set up three semesters for the students.
The Stettler students finished their theory at the end of January and will be part of the convocation in June with other college students.
“Our students had to be in Grade 10 and 11 because it was spread out over three semesters,” Brown said.
When they graduate, the students will be considered certified health-care aides.
They’ll be able to work in long-term and continuing-care facilities, such as nursing homes and auxiliary hospitals, acute care, as well as in home care/community agencies.
The health-care aide works as part of the health-care team assisting patients with the activities of daily living.
The health region has indicated a pressing demand for graduates of this program.
“High schools are always helping students to leave school with the most skills,” Brown said.
She said some of the Stettler students plan on being health-care aides, while others intend to enrol in licensed practical nursing or registered nursing, or work in the field part-time while they take another post-secondary program.
Most health-care-aide jobs start at about $18 an hour, she said.
Claire Hunter, 17, said the program has been worthwhile for her because she wondered about becoming a registered nurse, and now with that experience, she knows it’s what she wants to do.
Hunter trained at the Stettler hospital and also at Pine Ridge Lodge.
“At first when I heard we had to work in the hospital, I had doubts I could do it,” Hunter said.
“But at the end of the summer, I was really glad I was able to accomplish it. I was able to work like a professional.”
Dianne Enyedy, the William E. Hay classroom teacher for the high school component of the program, said the students did three weeks of clinical experience at the hospital last summer.
They’re working on a 80-hour preceptorship at either Heritage House or Pine Ridge long-term-care centres.
“They really get the opportunity to investigate a future career in the medical field,” Enyedy said.
The Stettler high school, with about 500 students, is the only one offering the program this school term through RDC.
Maureen Matejka, chair of the nursing program at Red Deer College, said that two groups of Hanna-area students within Prairie Land Regional Division have already graduated from the healthcare- aide program.
A high school teacher teaches part of the CTS course and the college instructors fill in any gaps.
“There’s a very big demand for health-care aides in the province,” Matejka said. “There are many people who are working and are not certified.
“Students also get the feel for what it’s like to be a college student.”