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Susquehanna Life

Apprenticeship available to CNAs across the state

Nov 28, 2015 09:46AM ● By Erica Shames

Toni Amacher, an employee at Susque-View Home, Inc. and participant in the CNA apprenticeship program, is pictured.

An apprenticeship that was previously offered to certified nursing assistants (CNAs) in Central Pennsylvania is now available to CNAs in health care facilities across the state.

Susque-View Home, Inc. in Lock Haven is nearing the successful completion of its​ pilot CNA apprenticeship program, and now certified nursing assistants working throughout Pennsylvania can earn advanced and specialty certifications by enrolling in a CNA apprenticeship program.

The apprenticeship was designed and developed by the WATCH (Work Attributes Toward Careers in Health) Project, and includes a combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which apprentices learn practical and theoretical aspects of nursing.

"When most people think of apprenticeship, the industrial trades come to mind," said Monna Harman, WATCH Project CNA apprenticeship instructor. "We are very proud to have formulated the first registered CNA apprenticeship in the state, and are fortunate to have a first-class facility as our pilot site."

Toni Amacher, a nurse aide apprentice in the pilot program at Susque-View Home, Inc., is more than halfway through the program. Susque-View's Director of Human Resources Rita Foley said not only is Toni succeeding, but she is also "showing incredible leadership on her floor."

"The CNA apprenticeship program has helped me increase my nursing job knowledge in general," Toni said. "My co-workers look up to me, ask me questions and my opinions, and respect what I have to say."

Her employer values her new skills because it contributes to the care provided to patients.

"We believe in apprenticeship because increased knowledge means increased care," Rita offered. "If our nurse aide apprentices understand why care is provided in a certain way, they will increase the level of care to our residents."

CSIU WATCH Project Manager Katherine Vastine says the apprenticeship trains individuals as advanced nursing assistants with a geriatric specialization, something that will boost the local health care industry.

“This is an opportunity for skilled and dedicated workers to advance in the nursing profession, which will also help meet the employment needs of local health care providers,” said Vastine.

CNAs can participate in the apprenticeship while working for a facility anywhere in Pennsylvania. The courses, which are self propelled, are delivered via video and workbooks. Vastine adds that this method delivers personalized learning for the participant to learn at his or her speed over the course of a year.

The registered apprenticeship offers several advantages for employees and employers. Workers can earn a paycheck while they receive hands-on training from experienced professionals, and receive incremental pay increases as they advance on the nursing career ladder.

Satisfied with her progress, Toni added, "If you push and apply yourself, you can do it."

For employers, the benefits include improved quality of care for patients, as well as an increase in employee satisfaction and retention.

The program is overseen by a health care facility that sponsors its current CNA employees as apprentices. A site administrator is responsible for assessing students’ competency skills and ensuring the required course work is completed. A WATCH Project CNA apprenticeship instructor assists with reviewing coursework and testing, and is available for support throughout the apprenticeship.

The WATCH Project worked in cooperation with the Northcentral Area Health Education Center, Penn College at Wellsboro and local health care employers to create the curriculum. The apprenticeship is registered with the Pennsylvania Apprenticeship and Training Council, with cooperation from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship.

The WATCH Project is a federal Health Profession Opportunity Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services administered by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit in Milton. The program helps move individuals into a high-priority health profession such as a direct care worker, CNA, LPN, and RN.

For more information about the CNA apprenticeship, or to learn how to become a registered facility, visit or call 1-855-292-8246.

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