Free online nursing courses begin at Riverland

Published 7:11 am Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Minnesota health care workers are beginning to benefit from a grant garnered in 2008 by Riverland Community College and Workforce Development Inc.

Free online nursing courses commenced last month at the community college, as a result of the $1 million Community-Based Job Training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The grant has also funded pre-employment health care academies at Workforce Development and health care career fairs on Riverland’s campus for fifth grade students.

“The goal of the initiative is to help increase the skill levels of nursing assistants who work in long-term care facilities and also to help address the need for a pipeline of new health care workers,” explained Amy Wangen, project manager at Riverland.

The grant provides tuition funding for 72 students, who are currently employed as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), to take the self-directed online continuing education courses.

“The courses were developed specifically for this project — for those who have nursing assistant training to continue to increase their training and continue their learning,” Wangen said.

There are 52 students currently enrolled in the online training through their employers. Students begin with an introduction to online learning and go on to take online courses in the areas of clinical observation, dementia, mentoring and leadership, psycho-social needs and restorative care. Those who complete all courses will earn three and a half college credits. Students who began in February can complete the sequence by June.

“The students will increase their skills, potentially their wages and build upon their college credentials,” Wangen said.

About 16 long-term care providers are enrolling their CNAs in the courses and refurbished computers are made available to those students who otherwise would not have access to one. The program may continue after the grant money is spent, at which point employers would have to pay the tuition, Wangen said.

While the online classes are only available to those with CNA training, Workforce Development’s health care academies offer training to students who want to enter the field as well as those interested in moving up the health care ladder.

The academies help new students choose a health care career path and attain training.

“One crucial aspect about these programs are that they are helping remove the barriers that prevent people from accessing higher education,” Wangen explained.

For information on the health care academies, contact Workforce Development at 433-0550.

Additional grant partners include Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, South Central Minnesota Workforce Investment Board, Stearns-Benton Workforce Board and at least 16 long-term health care providers.