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Pam Brooks; Assistant Professor of Nurse Assistant and Allied Health

“The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” was the tagline for the Peace Corps in the 60s but whenever I think about that line I think of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  The position of CNA, held by countless caring individuals across this country, is an important fundamental piece of the health care team. 

When you think about the lack of control over one’s surroundings when admitted to a hospital or nursing home, the CNA becomes an integral ever important part of one’s life.

I have been teaching CNA at Waubonsee Community College for almost 10 years.  I teach the basic skills that are required to care for patients.  These basic skills include vital signs, personal care, transfers and more.  But I think the most important piece of wisdom I impart upon my students is the importance of really “caring” for another human being.  It is by far the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.  To care for someone changes your life.  It changes who you are.  If you have ever been sick or had a loved one that was sick and was cared for by a CNA you understand exactly what I am saying.  Being at someone else’s mercy is quite a scary thing.  To be a CNA that truly cares is empowering.  To make a difference in someone’s life is wonderfully gratifying.

I had an administrator at an area nursing home stop me in the hall while I was there with my students and say, “Pam, the thing I love about your students from Waubonsee is that they really care.”  That comment made me proud to be a CNA Instructor at Waubonsee.  I know you can’t teach someone to care, but the CNA Instructors at Waubonsee definitely lead by example.

Former and current students in the CNA Program are a diverse group.  I have had students from many different countries.  I have had students that haven’t finished high school and students that have received a master’s degree.  My youngest student was 17; the oldest was 74.  This diversity is what makes the CNA classroom a rich place to learn.  We all bring so many different life experiences to the classroom.  The students in the CNA classroom become a close-knit group.  Students practice skills on each other in the lab before going to a nursing home for the clinical experience. The students work together. We are a team that helps each other succeed.

In some cases, the CNA Certificate is the student’s end goal but for others, it is a stepping stone to further their education. While some students want to go on to care for Alzheimer’s residents in a nursing home, other students want to learn the skills they need to care for an elderly family member.  Many of my students apply to Physician Assistant (PA) school and need to work with patients or residents of skilled nursing facilities to be accepted into a PA program.  Many are taking the class with aspirations of becoming a Registered Nurse.

The CNA Program is a fantastic way to find out if taking care of people is really your passion. And this program can be done in just one semester. The CNA Program offers morning and evening classes at both the Aurora Downtown and the Aurora Fox Valley campuses. We offer 8-, 12- and 16-week classes.  CNA is the toughest job you’ll ever love.  I highly recommend it!

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