Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Partnership Helps High School Students Learn How to Bridge Communities

Pictured left to right: Julie Ellis, Executive Director for Bridging Communities; Aaliyah Owens; Tammy Johnson-Candia, Director of Nursing; Andrea Staskiel, Executive Director of WindsorMeade Williamsburg and Martha Shaheen. (photo: Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

WILLIAMSBURG — In Williamsburg, the partnership between high school students and a senior living community is impacting the future of healthcare education.

Health care and high school have come together at WindsorMeade Williamsburg thanks to Bridging Communities Regional Career & Technical Center, a technical education high school located in New Kent, whose programs prepare students to be industry professionals through career-focused content and work-based learning.

A growing need for healthcare professionals and the opportunity to educate and train the next generation is why Andrea Staskiel, Executive Director of WindsorMeade Williamsburg was excited to be part of the Nursing program offered through Bridging Communities.

The program extends its benefits beyond just the students, offering WinsorMeade an opportunity to show future team members that the senior living field is a rewarding field for personal and professional growth.

“Part of our WindsorMeade-Pinnacle Living initiatives is what we strive to do for our community,” said Staskiel. “We recognize that a lot of the students may not necessarily end up back here (WindsorMeade) but we want them to have the best start and to learn in the best environment. Plus, it has also been good for our team to work with the students.”

“I believe a lot of our residents like to see that the younger generation is interested in them and interested in healthcare and helping people,” said Tammy Johnson-Candia, RN, Director of Nursing at WindsorMeade.

The Nursing program through Bridging Communities prepares students through clinical training, supplemented by in-class learning. Students engage directly with residents, learn essential skills and gain insights into the realities of providing healthcare to residents.

“Hands-on experience is fundamental to what we do at Bridging Communities. We want to make sure they have real-world experiences that are hands-on. We are both a career and technical center and a STEM academy but, it’s the skills that make you valuable in the workforce. We focus on that. We always try to get onsite work opportunities for all our students,” said Julie Ellis, Executive Director for Bridging Communities.

Johnson-Candia provided guidance in the clinical environment for student learning. The experience goes beyond learning the 21 essential nursing skills: it’s also about developing empathy, communication, and relationship-building skills.

“I like this age group because they have the purpose and drive and they know what they want to do. It is so important that we get the opportunity to bring people in from high school into the program automatically because our workforce is struggling. There is a lot of stress. A lot of burn out. And we need numerous positions and it is only getting harder to fill them. The earlier we can introduce people to healthcare, to compassion and being with people in this arena, senior living, it will be so beneficial to keep the workforce flowing and going.” said Johnson-Candia.

Most importantly, students understand if this is a job they can do full-time.

Martha Shaheen, CNA Mentor shows Aaliyah Owens the proper technique for getting a resident in and out of a bed. (Photo: Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

One such student is Aaliyah Owens, a senior from King and Queen County Public School, who is completing the Nursing program at WinsdorMeade. Owens, who received several college scholarships and acceptances, will attend Howard University and plans to pursue a medical degree.

In addition to school and college credits, Owens received her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license through the program, as well as becoming CPR/First Aid certified. She said her goal is to get a job in the profession while she is at Howard and continue using and honing the skills she learned here.

“I 100% recommend this program if someone is interested in the medical field. If you do Practical Nursing through Bridging you will know, by the end of the year — no, by the middle of the year — you’ll know if this is what you want to do or if this is not what you are interested in,” explained Owens.

The future of healthcare may lie in programs like this, which utilize students, parents, school, community and business to help fill positions says Staskiel. It truly is “Bridging Communities” as Ellis pointed out.

“I just saw one of my favorite residents. It is going to be hard to say good-bye,” admitted Owens.

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