The American Red Cross offers a four- to six-week, 120-hour program for those who want to become a Certified Nursing Assistant.
The program, approved through the Virginia Board of Nursing, provides each student with 22 specific skills needed to become a CNA.
"All classes are taught by registered nurses," said Cheryl Larson, National Capital Region, Division 6, Nurse Assistant Training manager. "It's designed to help you pursue a license as a registered CNA. We will give you a certificate of completion once you've successfully passed the course here and have met our exit requirements."
The course equips students with the skills and knowledge to take the Virginia State Board Exam.
Military Veterans and their Family members can find financial aid for the program through the Military Spouses Career Advancement Accounts program with the Department of Defense, and the Ford Motor Company's Blue Oval Scholarship.
Military spouses in each branch of the service except the Coast Guard are eligible to apply for MYCAA assistance. The Blue Oval Scholarship is available for active-duty and retired servicemembers as well as immediate Family members.
"If you qualify for the MYCAA program, that's another way you can access 100 percent tuition reimbursement," said Larson. "The Blue Oval scholarship is also 100 percent tuition reimbursement."
The first 80 hours of the course are completed in the classroom through textbook and DVD materials. Hands-on training through multiple skill stations utilizing hospital beds and other medical equipment are also a part of the classroom training.
The final 40 hours of the course are completed in Old Town Alexandria at the Red Cross's long-term care facility. Here, students work with their nurse instructors to provide care for assigned residents.
Some of the 22 skills taught in the program include denture care, transferring a resident from a bed to a wheelchair, bathing, feeding, and checking vital signs.
"We make sure you are proficient in all those skills so when you go and take your state board exam you are set up and ready to pass," said Larson. "Our classroom is set up for that. We have regular classrooms, but we also have hospital beds, manikins and wheelchairs. We'll be teaching you those 22 skills hands on."
The State Board Exam consists of two parts; a 70-question multiple-choice test to be completed in two hours, and a skills test that requires students to use the 22 skills taught in the course.
Many graduates go on to work at home healthcare agencies and hospitals while others pursue becoming physician assistants or go to medical school, according to Larson.
"They realize having this on their resume gives them an extra advantage to apply to a school for a higher level of education," said Larson. "It also looks good on your resume that you have hands-on experience in the healthcare environment."
The certificate acquired after passing the State Board Exam ensures that military spouses will have a job no matter where their spouse is assigned.
"You've got a state license in health care and it's a portable license, so if you move, you just apply for endorsement in the state you are going to be moving to," said Larson. "That state will look at your license and, as long as everything is OK, they will issue you a license to practice in that state."
Larson added that anyone interested in going to college for nursing should complete this program before applying to another program.
"Some of the nursing schools are now making it mandatory that you have your CNA license before you can even apply to a nursing school," said Larson.