(Media release from Atrium Health Floyd):

We, no doubt, will be talking about the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come. The resulting mental health issues, the toll on clinical caregivers and the educational delays in young students all have gotten media attention.

High school students experienced their own unique pandemic losses such as missed proms and missed graduation ceremonies. For three Paulding County College and Career Academy seniors, the pandemic resulted in the loss of opportunity to complete their clinical hours to earn their Patient Care Tech (PCT) certification before graduation.
The certification is a straight-from-high-school career pathway program that prepares students to enter the health care job market immediately upon graduation.

Without those hours, these students, who already had their Nursing Assistant certifications (CNA), would not have had the real-life clinical experience that is so important to job success and to gaining entry to other clinical education programs. This could have delayed their entry into the job market or to a college program to become either a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.

Those weren’t suitable options. Seeking a solution, school administrators reached out to Aimee Griffin, whose children attend Paulding County schools. Aimee is vice president of professional services at Atrium Health Floyd and promised to look for opportunities for these students to get the clinical hours they needed.

Recognizing that Floyd Medical Center might be too far from school for these students, Griffin reached out to Tifani Kinard, vice president of Rural Health and administrator at Polk Medical Center, to see if she could help. Kinard quickly engaged Anita Jackson, Polk’s director of nursing, and Atrium Health Floyd’s Clinical Education team for assistance.
Within two weeks these students, who had invested a good part of their high school years to get a CNA certification before graduation, were at Polk Medical Center, each gaining the 20 hours of clinical experience they needed to earn their certification.

Jackson said she doesn’t see their efforts as heroic. She and the nurses at Polk Medical Center simply helped some future nurses along their career path, but Griffin, the students’ parents and the administrators at Paulding County High School beg to differ.

Having to start a program over easily could have been the gut punch that ended their career plans. Delaying the start of a first job or a next step could have derailed the students who may already face financial, social or other challenges.

Ask Griffin, Kinard and Jackson about the mentors in their lives, the people who helped them find their calling and thrive in their careers. They each can list the encouragers, the supporters and the leaders in their field who helped them overcome obstacles or find the path that was right for them.

Sixty hours is an investment. Ensuring these three students received the 20 hours of clinical training helped them achieve their goal, but the opportunity to learn under veteran nurses who are patient, helpful and encouraging is the kind of life-changing experience that can transform a young man or woman. It is impactful and beneficial, an opportunity for our nurses to pay forward what others have done for them.

Who knows? These clinical experiences may, in a few short years, result in three new Atrium Health Floyd nurses paying forward the gift of experience and kindness they received.