BHS is home to three CNAs, pictured above with school nurse Sarah Blankenship

Three Booneville High School students have completed Certified Nursing Assistant certification.

The trio of Grace Gray, Megan Reid, and Baylee Davis, who are all completing their junior years this week, completed the CNA process through a full year of coursework that started with medical terminology and ending with the CNA test.

The three are certified through Arkansas Tech University’s Ozark Campus and are the first who were taught by high school/junior high nurse Sarah Blankenship who actually got to take the test due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The girls did so despite the typical full plate of activities of an active high school student – Reid is a cheerleader and volleyball player, while Gray spends her time away from the desk working chicken houses, and Davis is a volleyball and softball player as well as a band member.

“You just have to realize how important it can be to your future and you just have to put your priorities in order,” said Reid.

Often, CNA certification is the first step toward LPN, RN or further nursing education. That wasn’t necessarily the goal for Gray, but that might have changed.

“It wasn’t part of the idea,” said Gray. “But, since I’ve taken this class I have decided I would like to work at nursing homes and maybe carry on into nursing.”

For Davis the move was a first step towards a degree.

“I want to get a medical degree and be a physical therapist assistant,” she said, adding she just made it all fit into her schedule.

Reid almost let the high school overload get to her.

“At the beginning of this year I got kind of burnt out with all the work (she was working at Sonic too) and the studying I needed to do,” said Reid. “I had a wakeup call when my mom made me stay at home on a day that I had something planned.

 “I just stayed at home and read the book and studied and went over it in my head a thousand times and the next week I came back and was ready to go. I feel like that’s what made me pass the test.”

The test consisted of a knowledge based test taken via computer, and a skills test.

For the skills test the candidate could be given any of a number of tasks to perform on demand, either on a simulated patient or a practice mannequin for things like catheters.

All against a timer.

“We knew what some of it could be so we practiced,” said Blankenship. “There are specific things you have to do for each (task).”

“You have to remember all steps and if you miss one thing you fail,” said Reid.

Reid said she had to remove someone from a bed to a wheelchair with a gate belt while performing the exercise with the correct order of action.

“You have to be specific or you could cost someone their life,” said Reid.

“It was nerve-wracking because you go in there and you have 30 minutes to do them,” said Davis.

Prior to the all-day test the girls had to spend two full eight-hour shifts in “clinicals”. Those were completed at Greenhurst Nursing Home in Charleston.

Reid has since applied at Greenhurst and will work as a CNA at the nursing home this summer while Davis is hoping to join the staff at Oak Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center here in Booneville.

Gray is looking to join Reid, or perhaps find a job in Fort Smith, or even start on the LPN program at ATU Ozark while still a senior at BHS.

As Gray notes, most seniors are able to complete their high school necessities by lunch but, again, there are practices eating into time which may force work to be a weekend endeavor, which in turn, moves studying into leisure time.

All three girls have nursing connections. For Reid a move into nursing care follows her mother, Gray has an aunt who is a nurse, and Davis’ mother is a nurse.

Before the clinical portion, the girls had to complete over 100 hours of course work covering the medical terminology and other knowledge as well as the skills practice.

“They have to be here because if I don’t have those hours logged they can’t take the test,” said Blankenship.

The clinical days also pushed nine-week tests back – Davis taking an algebra test on Monday.

The best part of the process?

“Probably when you’re at the nursing home and you see people in need and you actually know how to do things,” said Reid. “Like you know how to get them out of bed without hurting them. It’s the things that make a difference and you’re trained to do it.”

“Helping the workers too,” adds Gray. “Other CNAs.”

Davis agrees the clinicals was the best part of the journey.

“You actually get to go and the nurse lets you do what you’ll be working in,” said Davis. “And it’s neat being on that side of the nursing home. Normally go in there and you’re just sitting (visiting) with someone and when you do the clinical you’re actually working.”

“The CNA can make or break your stay,” said Blankenship. “One thig we talked about is CNAs are with the patient the most so they, a lot of times, have the best insight for doctors and nurses about how that patient is doing. It’s a very important job.”

The worst Reid says was the book work.

“This was probably the class I’ve had the most work in,” said Reid.

But there were days off for homecoming and other activities? Absolutely not.

Davis said it was the speed of cramming it all into a school year, but is thankful the journey is complete.