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Certified Nursing Assistant courses give students a pathway into health care careers.

Debra Byrom

Monterey Adult School’s Certified Nursing Assistant program lead Debra Byrom has 26 years of medical experience and 18 years in teaching.

Celia Jiménez here, thinking about how a career change can be refreshing—and mark the start of something new and fulfilling.

Last week, I reported that Monterey Adult School will be bringing back its Certified Nursing Assistant program. Instruction had been on hold for five years, first because it was difficult to find a qualified instructor, and later due to Covid-19. 

It’s a popular program, and the school says potential students are always inquiring about it. “We are constantly being called and asked when we’re going to have our CNA program back,” says MAS Principal Beth Wodecki. 

Now these potential students are in luck—because the school was finally able to secure an instructor. Recently, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District hired Debra Byrom, a licensed practical nurse with 26 years of medical experience and 18 years of teaching experience, including at Monterey Peninsula College, to lead the program. 

CNAs spend a considerable amount of time with patients providing important care including bathing, moving or feeding patients. “They’re really a nurse’s eyes and ears,” Byrom says.

Another adult school that offers a CNA program locally is Salinas Adult School. Yvonne Glenn, director of Mission Trails Regional Occupational Program at Salinas Union High School District, says their program has been active for a long time and it was the only facility that obtained a waiver to continue during pandemic shelter-in-place orders. 

In both programs students complete 60 hours of theory and 100 hours of clinical work at local senior homes. Each program targets a different audience. MAS offers a nine-week-long accelerated program, while SAS is a six-month program that meets twice a week and has four cohorts each semester. The Salinas course “is meant for adults that have other jobs, or have other responsibilities and want to enhance their skills,” Glenn points out. 

Glenn says the graduation rate is high, about 99 percent, and most students find jobs locally. She adds that before the current health care provider shortage—an unfortunate conflagration of Covid-19 pressures along with high rates of resignations or retirement among health care providers—most of their students found positions at senior homes. Now they are finding jobs at local hospitals.  

Glenn encourages students to research CNA programs before enrolling and make sure programs have state certification, which will allow them to take the required state test (the programs at MAS and SAS are both certified). Byrom says the CNA program can be a great stepping stone for students who want to pursue a health care career. “It's the best way to get into health care, and your best experience for time management and experience for hands on.

“There's always a demand for health care providers,” Byrom adds.

If you are interested in either of these programs, there are some upcoming orientations. One takes place in Salinas on Wednesday, Jan. 11 from 10am-3pm at 867 East Laurel Dr.; the other in Seaside on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 10am at 295 La Salle Ave. 

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