On a Monday morning, Austin Community College students bustle around a classroom full of hospital beds.
The students pull mock fluids from the high-tech manikins and practice taking vitals as a partner times them. After just a few weeks in class, the students are getting ready for a test that could earn them credentials as certified nursing assistants.
These students are taking classes in one of the most in-demand areas of health care, and soon ACC will offer more aid to help students complete the courses.
The college has partnered with health care training nonprofit Dwyer Workforce Development to provide support services such as child care and transportation to students who need assistance in completing the five- to six-week nursing certification course.
Maryland-based Dwyer also buys for-profit senior care centers and converts them into nonprofit centers, which fund the health care training.
College and business leaders hope the partnership will help produce more certified nursing assistants who can work in Central Texas.
While the program provides scholarships, its other services make it unique, said Nancy Laudenslager, director of workforce development at ACC.
“If that happens to someone and they’re in a program, the world kind of falls apart, and the first thing that happens is they don’t come to class,” Laudenslager said.
The program can help students get immunizations they need to work in the health care industry, provide mental health services or connect students with other nonprofits.
ACC officials hope the program will help train 100 nursing assistants within a year, Laudenslager said.
More certified nursing aides are definitely needed, said Meoshe Robertson, program coordinator of the nursing assistant program at ACC.
“CNAs are such an important part of the health care team,” Robertson said. “They’re in a category of their own. The whole thing couldn’t happen without the CNA.”
Nursing assistants interact intimately with patients in hospitals, assisted living homes and other settings.
The COVID-19 pandemic only made the need more acute, she said.
By 2030, it’s expected that Texas will have a 15,900-person gap between supply and demand for 269,300 nurses, according to a 2021 study by the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.
The certified nursing assistant certification is a versatile one, Robertson said. Students could get a job right away with it, or they could use it as a jumping off place to get other medical certifications, she said.
CNAs in Texas on average earn $13.43 an hour, 23% lower than the U.S. average of $16.45, according to Vivian, a San Francisco-based health care job marketplace.
Laudenslager hopes the college’s partnership with Dwyer will encourage more students to come to ACC for health care training.
“In this program, and other ones, this could make a significant difference to individuals who just don’t know how to get started,” Laudenslager said.
The first students in the program will start at ACC in September. The college plans to have at least one five- to six-week nurse assistant course starting each month.