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Training new healthcare workers when they're needed most

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Catholic Charities of Boston (CCAB) serves those most in need, ensuring access to life's basic necessities and, most importantly, offering a path from crisis to stability to self-sufficiency. One of the most important steps on the path to self-sufficiency is obtaining an education that will lead to a job with a livable wage.

Catholic Charities Laboure Center's Nursing Assistant and Home Health Aide training program puts students on a promising career track in the competitive healthcare field.

Started in South Boston in 2011, the program has grown into a comprehensive, hands-on training center for people of all backgrounds interested in working in healthcare. The program's goal is to prepare people to enter the healthcare workforce, but beyond that, it's helping people get jobs that are desperately in demand, especially during the pandemic.

With strong connections to area hospitals, many of the program graduates find jobs at top-ranking hospitals, such as Massachusetts General and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as well as long-term care facilities and home healthcare agencies.

After having made significant upgrades to its facility with the help of a state grant, the program was looking forward to great success in early 2020 when COVID-19 hit.

The South Boston-based program was able to reopen in November using a hybrid classroom model. Currently, there are nine students enrolled in classes led by two instructors. To become certified nursing assistants, students must complete three full days of off-site clinical work but are currently unable to enter long-term care facilities to do so due to pandemic-related restrictions. Alterations to the program allow students to complete their classroom hours virtually and take the appropriate exams to become HHA certified.

The pandemic is taxing the capacities of local hospitals and generating significant demand for trained clinicians. Hospitals are in dire need of nursing assistants to support the nurses and doctors treating COVID and non-COVID patients. Because the demand is overwhelming and hospitals need additional support, some facilities are allowing students to work with their HHA certificate, knowing that they have passed the appropriate nurse assistant final exams.

Marshfield resident and recent graduate Beth Healey, who, with her two daughters completed the Laboure program in January 2020, just before COVID-19 hit, said that the NA/HHA program coursework ignited her passion for patient care and prepared the three of them for their work as visiting nurses with Celtic Angels. Her daughter, Claire, is also working at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, caring for those battling COVID-19.

"We all feel confident in our ability to keep ourselves and our patients safe during the pandemic, and we attribute this to the excellent education we received through the Laboure program at Catholic Charities. We are deeply grateful to Catholic Charities for providing us the skills we need to serve our community when we are most needed," Healey said.

This pandemic has shone a bright light on the importance of healthcare workers and taking care of others. For more information on the NA/HHA program, please visit www.ccab.org/nurse-south-boston.

JACQUELINE CUNNIFF IS MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER FOR CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF BOSTON.



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