(Media release from Georgia Northwestern Technical College):

The first cohort of Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) students in a new, accelerated CNA program developed from a partnership between Atrium Health Floyd and GNTC to remedy the shortage of area healthcare professionals will complete their classes on July 25.

In an agreement signed by Atrium Health Floyd and GNTC on May 8, Atrium Health Floyd committed nearly $1.1 million to be disbursed over five years to increase total enrollment in the Respiratory Care Technology, Radiologic Technology and CNA (Nurse Aide Accelerated) programs at GNTC’s Floyd County Campus in Rome. The agreement will help fund instructor positions and laboratory upgrades at GNTC and is expected to increase the number of Respiratory Therapists, Radiologic Technologists and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) in northwest Georgia.

“The collaboration between Atrium Health Floyd and GNTC is a great commitment to building the pipeline of caregivers while opening opportunities for our students,” said Gina Clevenger, CNA instructor at GNTC. “Lots of nurses start their careers as CNAs, and some nursing programs require students to be certified to enter their programs.”

The collaboration between the training programs and employers is the key to building a successful workforce, Clevenger said.

“Nursing is all I know,” said student Breanna D. Callahan. “I have taken care of residents and patients my entire life.”

Callahan began working at Atrium Health Floyd in 2016 in pre-operative care as a Certified Medical Assistant. She worked in the same office as Clevenger. Callahan said based on Clevenger’s skills and knowledge, “I don’t think GNTC could’ve hired anybody better” to teach the class.

“My employer (Atrium Health Floyd) has always offered a lot of opportunities, so I was excited when I found out that they are helping their employees further their careers while still being able to work,” Callahan said. “I chose this 8-week course to earn an additional credential and to enable me to travel and provide a variety of patient care.”

Callahan said she plans to return to school to earn her Registered Nurse license, bachelor’s degree in Nursing and a degree in Radiologic Technology.

“I became interested in nursing when I found out I was pregnant with my first child,” said student Isabella L. Tucker. “I knew I wanted to give her a better and stable life.” 

Tucker said she chose the 8-week program to get into the field more quickly so that she would have a career in the field before her daughter is born. She plans to start off as a CNA to gain experience in the field and have a job while she chooses her next steps. Her goal is to join the nursing program after her daughter’s birth.

“The students are engaged and eager to learn,” Clevenger said. “I enjoy working with them.”

Classroom instruction includes basic anatomy, infection control, medical terminology, safety, communication skills, legal issues and patient rights. Students learn how to take vital signs, care for the patient and recognize abnormal changes with patients during their lab experience before they progress to clinical experience.

Clinical experience provides students with the opportunity to perform supervised practice of required clinical skills, including bathing, feeding and transfer of patients/residents. Clinical experience can be taught in various settings under an instructor’s supervision.

GNTC offers the program five times annually: twice in spring, once in summer and twice in fall, Clevenger said.

GNTC is accepting admissions applications for the CNA program from all eligible applicants, not just students from Atrium Health Floyd, through July 29, Clevenger said. Applicants who are accepted must complete the CNA eligibility form at and attend orientation on Aug. 7. Classes begin Aug. 19.

A high school diploma or High School Equivalency is not required to enter or graduate from the program, and a minimum of nine credit hours is required for graduation, Clevenger said.

Some employers require that applicants have a high school diploma or High School Equivalency, Clevenger said. GNTC’s Adult Education program offers High School Equivalency exam preparation classes at no charge. 

“The relationships that I have at the hospital will help to get students plugged in and connected in the areas that they have an interest in working,” Clevenger said, adding that having a CNA license can give students who wish to pursue a nursing career a competitive edge in program admissions.

Clevenger, who began her 31-year career in nursing as a CNA at Atrium Health Floyd in 1992, went on to earn her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Nursing to become a family nurse practitioner.

“As a CNA, I established relationships and developed communication skills with patients, families, nurses, doctors and other caregivers,” Clevenger said. “The fundamentals have carried forward with me throughout my career in healthcare, and I feel that my experience helps me to teach and encourage my students to be great caregivers.”

Clevenger said throughout her career, she has maintained respect for the basic nursing care that CNAs provide. She has seen the difference it can make to patients and family members during some of the most difficult times in their lives. 

Tucker said she has been impressed with Clevenger’s dedication, explaining that the instructor has provided students with many resources to succeed in the program. GNTC is dedicated to empowering students to succeed.

“The ability to apply my knowledge and skills, to work in various other departments at Atrium Health Floyd and to travel have impressed me the most” about the new program, Callahan said.

Photo caption –

The first cohort of GNTC’s CNA (Nurse Aide Accelerated) program. (From left to right) Allie Patnode, dean of Nursing and Health Technologies at GNTC; Heidi Aguilar; Isabella Tucker; Cathrine Greeson; Breanna Callahan; Aniah Carlton; Kenia Hurtado Ortega; and Gina Clevenger, CNA instructor at GNTC.