Elise Grace, CNA

Challenging and Interesting Work

In our quest to celebrate CNAs everywhere, we jumped at the chance to chat with Elise Grace, a CNA who is from England. She has been living in the United States (and did her CNA training here), but will soon be returning to the UK. Here are Elise's thoughts about why she became a nursing assistant and what the future might hold for her:

What is your educational background?

I graduated from high school (in England) in 1981 and did what's called a "City and Guilds diploma" in Community Care. Later, as a mature student, I studied Early Years Education and became a kindergarten teacher, working in that profession for eight years. In 2009, I completed the CNA course at a local college here in the U.S.

Why did you decide to "change course" and become a CNA?

My children are at boarding school in England and I am no longer dictated by the 9am - 3pm of the school-day. So, I found myself in a position to indulge myself—doing something that would prove challenging and interesting. Nursing seemed to fit the bill.

What was the training like?

The training lasted five weeks and was fun. There was lots of reading, testing, home study, practical lab work and clinical experience in the community. There's a substantial amount of practical lab work which is necessary because putting what you learn into practice can be quite challenging!

What did you like best?

I loved the camaraderie I experienced with the other students, particularly during the practicals. And I was always interested in reading and learning more about diseases, illnesses and medicine--to give me a better understanding of what patients may be experiencing. Working your care practice around greater knowledge can only be a good thing, especially if you intend to further your nursing education!

What was most challenging about the training?

Most challenging would have to be getting the blood pressure just right using the manual sphygmomanometer, saying sphygmomanometer and, especially, spelling sphygmomanometer!!!!

In your class did you meet a wide range of people? For example, were there students of different ages, different backgrounds, etc?

It was certainly a diverse range of students. I was the eldest at 44 and the youngest was just 18 and straight from school. The second eldest was ten years younger than me and a new grandmother!!! We had one male student who was on a gap break from his musical degree studies. And there were also a couple of twenty-something girls; one had moved from Pennsylvania and another used to work as a floor manager in Wal-mart.

How was the CNA certification test? What can you tell us about that experience?

The certification test was in two parts; theory and practical. The practical was the most harrowing! I had to pass that before I could go on to the theory. There are several areas that I was tested on--some were mandatory while others were chosen by the RN examiner. The nerve wracking part was knowing that I had to pass with 100 percent or I failed!!! Fortunately, everything is covered during the course and what normally fails students are silly mistakes due to nerves. So, my advice is don't be nervous! The RN doesn't want you to fail and will be kind and encouraging. Just be sensible about everything you do and, if it helps, talk through what you are doing. Remain courteous to the mannequin you may be working on and remember the fundamentals of privacy and safety. Once the practical is passed (and you're walking on air) the theory is a relative breeze! In my state, it consisted of multiple choice on the computer and I had plenty of time to complete it. It's all based on what you've learned in class, coupled with good old common sense!

There are many different healthcare settings that employ nursing assistants. What sort of setting attracts you and why?

I am returning to England in August and I have recently registered with an agency that places people in the caring profession in areas for which they are most qualified. From the degree qualified nurse to the health care assistant (or HCA, as CNAs are called in England) there are exciting opportunities to work in hospitals, home health and the community. Because I have worked with young children for so many years, there is the possibility that I will combine the two professions and work with sick children or those with learning disabilities.

Will all your American training transfer easily to the UK healthcare system?

It will go a long way to help. You can still get a nurse assistant job without any previous training with the right aptitude/attitude and then sign up for the relevant courses. Before I took my course and whilst I was researching the internet for information on CNAs, I came across the Just for CNAs website which I thought was inspirational. I was able to do many of the superb inservice topics offered to gain extra knowledge on subjects that I would later study during my CNA course. I created a notebook with the print outs of each module, along with my certificates of completion. This will show any prospective employer my dedication to continuing education! Inservice hours are imperative once you are certified and employed, so I would definitely recommend the topics offered by Just for CNAs. They're superbly presented, colourful, knowledgeable and interesting. And there are always special deals making them affordable.

Do you plan to work as a nursing assistant for some time or are you thinking of advancing your health care career?

In England, there is no such thing as an LPN (which I would have loved to become had I remained in the States). But, HCAs can do a vocational on-the-job, two year college course and then further their education practicing phlebotomy and vaccinations and so on. I don't anticipate becoming an RN. I'm in my mid forties now and would be almost 50 by the time I'd completed the four year degree course!!!!

Do you feel respected when you tell people you trained to become a nursing assistant?

Absolutely! It's extraordinary how many people don't realize such a profession exists. It all comes under the general title "nursing." There are just levels of nursing academia that you can work up to or stop at the level you're comfortable with. What is fundamental about the ethos of the CNA is that we are the front line of patient care and don't have to worry about managerial responsibilities until (or unless) we want to further ou r nursing education.

What would you say to people who are interested in becoming a nursing assistant?

Use the internet, book stores and library to get as much information on the profession as you can. See if there's a clinic or hospital, hospice, home health or Red Cross etc that will allow you to work for them voluntarily to see if the work will suit you. CNAs are subjected to hard work, unpleasant and unusual sights, sounds and smells--and angry or worried patients and families. If you can master all that with professional integrity then the kindness and smiles you receive will prove a huge bonus to your working day!

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