Last year, the Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) training program was filled with many challenges. But the pandemic also brought a few unexpected opportunities. The CNA training program had started the year off strong with 52 participants in January — more participants than any class had seen in a single month, and just five years earlier the Goodwill had not trained that many CNAs in a whole year. However, one phone call, in mid-March of 2020 from the clinical site changed everything.
Per state and federal regulation CNA students are required to complete their clinical practicum inside a long-term care facility. With the state of Michigan restricting visitors in those facilities, the Goodwill team suddenly had trainees who had nowhere to complete their clinical practicum. The training was put on hold indefinitely, and Goodwill staff had to notify 36 students who were in the clinical phase of training that they would not be able to finish at that time. Although Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids was closed, the program manager and CNA team continued to look for a new clinical site. With 36 students needing only clinical to graduate, the clock was ticking. By the end of April, the team had secured a new clinical site and were able to schedule students to complete their clinical hours and graduate. The Laurels of Hudsonville provided an opportunity that no one else would at the time, and the team is truly grateful!
With a new site, the Goodwill team went to work to redesign the curriculum, set up a platform for virtual learning and prepare instructors to teach remotely. The State of Michigan quickly issued approval for the hybrid plan, and May 18, 2020, marked the start of the Goodwill’s first-ever blended (50% virtual, 50% in-person) CNA training.
The virtual classroom was live and interactive and allowed the students to participate in the first half of training without leaving their homes or putting their families at risk. The Goodwill also continued to teach the skills and clinical portions of training in-person following social distancing guidelines, using proper PPE, and providing weekly COVID testing.
At the start of the pandemic, Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids had donated all of its PPE supplies to local long-term care facilities, as they needed them more than the training program did. Months later, as everything was quickly coming together to resume training, the delays to obtain PPE became another challenge.
Spectrum Health graciously gave donated a sizable supply of masks, gloves and hand sanitizer allowing the Goodwill to safely move forward with training.
The final hurdle the Goodwill faced was with helping students to graduate with certification. Prometric Testing Sites in Michigan were closed from mid-March until the end of July, creating a significant delay in testing for trainees. So much learning can be lost in that time, causing additional challenges for students. As a result, the Goodwill team launched refresher courses and tutoring opportunities to ensure that students felt comfortable with the lecture material and their skills before taking the exam.
While it was indeed a challenging year, the Goodwill came out of it with stronger and more robust community partnerships, nine additional clinical agreements, endless lessons about virtual learning, a pending application to become a Prometric Testing Site, and outcomes the team is proud of.