Heart to Heart Healthcare Training, located in Ypsilanti, offers Certified Nurse Assistant classes, as well as courses in CPR, AED and first aid training.

The program was launched in May 2016 by Katie and Meg Fortenberry.

Katie Fortenberry — a registered nurse — inherited Bay Nurse Assistant Program from her grandmother, who recently retired. The business, located in Bay City, provides Certified Nurse Assistant training.

“I was looking at some locations because I wanted to expand, and I’ve always been interested in the city of Ann Arbor and the surrounding areas, and with obviously the University of Michigan and some other colleges around,” she said. “It looked like a great opportunity.”

The CNA class, a 75-hour program approved by the state of Michigan, prepares people for the Certified Nurse Aide Competency Evaluation Program exam. The class is offered as a day program and a night program and often has about 15 people per class. The day program is Monday through Friday for two weeks.

“That consists of lectures, PowerPoints, all of the stuff you’re going to see in classrooms at the University,” she said. “We also have a lab portion; I really try to focus on the hands-on learning, practicing the skills. We have mannequins and a lot of the equipment you’re going to see in nursing homes and hospitals, so they can get a good feel of what it’s going to be like.”

The class finishes off with a clinical experience, where attendees go to a local nursing home and work with residents and patients there. Participants can shadow some of the certified nurse assistants.

The night class is four weeks long, Monday through Thursday. These classes mainly take place during the school year, Fortenberry said, to work with people’s schedules. Classes are held at least once a month — sometimes every other month in the winter months.

After the class ends, Fortenberry explained, the program offers a refresher course, allowing students to come back and practice any skills they want before the state test; the program also helps participants find jobs.

“It allows them to prepare a little bit more, feel confident and comfortable before they take the state test,” she said. “We also assist with job placement. We contact local nursing homes and hospitals, home health care agencies, hospice agencies, as well as anybody else in the health care field that is looking to hire a certified nurse assistant and let them know that we have students coming through. Anyone who is looking for jobs after, we can sort of assist them through that process as well.”

The facility also provides a variety of CPR classes — separate from CNA classes — with instructors from the American Heart Association.

“We teach a variety of CPR classes for people who are in the health care field all the way down to the layperson or someone who just wants to know the basics if their family member were to have a heart attack or go into cardiac arrest — you know, what can I do to save their life?” she said.

Though the program was slow to start in its first year, this year, Fortenberry said, its classes have been mostly full.

Participants include many University of Michigan students, Eastern Michigan University students and students from other smaller schools in the area. Some people who take the CNA class are people who are taking care of family members and want to get some more training. However, Fortenberry said all different types of people attend.

“A lot of the students that I get are college-age students that are going into med school, to be physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nursing school,” she said. “This is sort of the starting point for anyone going into the medical field. This is a good thing to sort of get their foot in the door and see, is this something they really like, and get experience to build their resume.”

Fortenberry noted medical schools like the University have very competitive admissions processes and are looking for people with experience in patient care, as early as possible. Fortenberry noted some participants are those who have worked in the medical field a long time, who were in positions where they didn’t need to be certified through the state, and now they are looking to expand their opportunities to work at hospitals and nursing homes.

Fortenberry said students do a course evaluation at the end of each course, and she said the program has received very positive feedback. She said her students have a very high passing rate on the state exam.

LSA senior Isabel Ceniza is a pre-med student studying Biomolecular Science. She heard about the program from her pre-med adviser at the Newnan Advising Center who recommended local CNA training opportunities. She took the day class in May.

“For me … I wanted a lot of patient interaction that I wasn’t getting from volunteering experiences,” she said. “As a CNA you spend the most amount of time with the patient, probably (more) than even a nurse or anyone else,” she said. “I was like, ‘Okay, this is really going to tell me whether or not I want to be pre-med, if this is the right thing for me.’ ”

Ceniza said she really enjoyed the class because of its very hands-on nature.

“Everything that we did, (Fortenberry) explained it, and then we did it,” she said. “It was mostly moving around. It really felt like a clinical experience, and Katie was really good about making the environment as if you were in a situation where you would have to perform a task or a skill.”

In the last couple days of the program, Ceniza said her class went to a rehabilitation center. Ceniza now works at the facility and she said several people from her class were also hired by the facility.

“They kind of threw us in, which I really appreciated,” she said. “You learn the skills and you just need to be thrown into it, which is an experience that I thought was a lot different than any of my pre-med classes have taught me.”

Ceniza said participants were paired with CNAs and got to know patients who were very nice and understanding.

Ceniza said she would definitely recommend the program to others on the pre-med track. She said being a CNA is really eye-opening if someone has never had clinical experience or interactions with patients.

“I think that this is something that is really going to open your eyes in terms of whether you can handle the profession or not, just because you’re balancing a lot of patients, you really have to multitask and people’s lives are in your hands, in a way,” she said. “You’re helping the patient, which is what you’re going into the profession for.”

Ceniza said she would recommend Heart to Heart, as she really enjoyed Fortenberry’s instruction and the facility is local.

Kinesiology senior Mattea Krasicky, studying Movement Science, is planning to attend physician assistant school, which requires from 500 to 2,000 clinical hours of experience, and CNA training is a way to complete some of those hours.

Krasicky said she was looking for CNA training facilities online that were near Ann Arbor, and Heart to Heart offered the program in a short amount of time for a good price. She finished the program earlier in the summer and is planning to take the state exam in September.

Krasicky said Fortenberry covers a list of about 20 skills in the class that are required for the state test.

“Everyday we’ll go through on average three to five of those skills, so she’ll have us read through a checklist about what we’re supposed to know about it,” she said. “She’ll talk about it, talk about the skill, talk about the indirect care part of it, how to deal with patients as people and not just necessarily the skill itself, and she’ll show us the skill, and then she’ll have us practice with each other.”

Fortenberry said she would recommend the program to anyone looking to gain experience.

“(Fortenberry) is incredibly thorough for the limited amount of time, just because the class goes by so quickly,” she said. “I feel like she did a really good job of making sure we knew the material we needed to know and was really effective. She knew how to answer all of our questions.”

She said at the nursing home, participants were really given free rein to practice the skills they learned. She echoed Ceniza’s comment on the importance of hands-on experience in the field.

“We got to do hands-on skills that we had been learning in class,” she said. “I felt that was the most effective way to kind of practice. It’s different between practicing on a mannequin and practicing on one of your friends and actually giving someone care. It was really cool to be in that environment.”

Fortenberry said she has received great feedback from the nursing homes that have hired the program’s students.

Fortenberry said this summer, Heart to Heart has filled almost every class.

“Next year what I’m going to be looking to do is expand to either a newer and bigger location or expand in our current location so we can hold more students per class, possibly, and/or just run more classes throughout the month than just what we have now,” she said. “That way we can work with more people’s schedules.”

Fortenberry said the organization is looking to grow and get the word out that there are options aside from a traditional degree as far as pursuing roles in the health care field.

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