Six women donned traditional caps and gowns to celebrate being graduated as certified nursing assistants from an intensive six weeks of work and study in the Activities Room of Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation in Waterloo on Dec. 21.
They were honored at the event by friends, families, including some children, other staff members, Oak Hill residents who had been served by the emerging students, and also Monroe County Commissioners.
The class – the first ever conducted at Oak Hill – started Nov. 11 and wrapped up Dec. 20.
The CNA certification is a legal requirement to allow them to assume their added responsibilities as health care givers.
As a registered nurse, and soon to be interim administrator of Oak Hill, Rachel Giffhorn, called each student to the podium to present a graduation certificate, she praised their hard work and dedication that had lifted them through this journey.
The certificates were accompanied by warm hugs and whispers between Giffhorn and each new CNA.
Giffhorn also noted the class’s top achiever, Kaitlyn Weber, for her grade of 98.6 percent, and said that was the result of stiff competition. All six CNA students scored above 90 percent.
Giffhorn noted the long hours – including five eight-hour work days on the facility floor – with residents and qualified CNAs guiding them, or in a laboratory facility followed by four more hours of classroom time four days each week.
And those arduous hours were wrapped on both ends with early morning drives to Oak Hill and homework after drives home, with one student coming from as far away as St. Louis.
Giffhorn said the days included the multiple frustrations of balancing work, home responsibilities and learning. She told how the journey had also included tears and sadness at losing their first resident.
Giffhorn said word about this new CNA program is spreading quickly. In addition to earning pay for hours worked, the classes are provided free by Oak Hill. In return, each student agrees to work there, using their newly learned skills as CNAs, for a period of one year.
The next class, convening in January, has already been filled to capacity with 15 students.
Two new Oak Hill personnel are becoming certified to instruct the next class as Giffhorn transitions to her new administrative responsibilities.
In addition to providing training and certification, Oak Hill stands ready to provide tuition assistance for CNAs who want to return to school to become licensed practical nurses and then as registered nurses — all while they continue to work and earn salaries and benefits at Oak Hill.
Monroe County Board Chairman Robert Elmore and Commissioner Vicki Koerber also praised these students and honored them by presenting each one a bouquet of flowers.
The graduation ceremony ended its formal phase with a cake cutting, with pieces accompanied by iced punch being offered to all attending.
As the event concluded, an obvious warm bond between an Oak Hill resident and one of the new CNAs was evidenced as the young lady – still in her cap and gown – knelt and talked quietly to an elderly woman before cheerfully wheeling her in her chair back to her room.
See more photos from the CNA graduation by clicking here.