The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Valley View Gets Grant for Nursing Apprenticeships


Courtesy photo from Valley View Home

Devon Palmer and Tayler Nixdorf pose for a photo at Valley View Home. The two are participating in the new career apprenticeships offered at the home.

Dana Nixdorf has worked at Valley View Nursing Home since 2004 with a few exceptions. Following last years change in management she returned to take over as the Director of Nursing (DON). She sat down with the Courier to talk about the implementation of a new nursing apprenticeship program being launched at the home, a program she believes will draw people into the nursing profession as well as let Valley View invest in their employees and improve long-term retention.

The apprenticeship was started and funded by grants from the Montana Health Network, and according to Nixdorf is modeled off the European style of nursing which focuses more on work experience and hands on education rather than formal college class work. Nixdorf compared it to skilled apprenticeship jobs like welding and plumbing, and said it is a great system to learn the profession while living in Glasgow and working a full-time or part-time job.

To apply for and enter the program requires no experience. New employees are hired on as utility aides, and they assist certified nursing aides (CNA) with changing linens, handing out water on schedule and offering residents snacks. "It's great because it gives them a feel for the facility and the type of work," explained Nixdorf, who believes it helps would-be nurses learn the benefits and challenges of working in long-term care before deciding to pursue a degree or career in the field.

As a utility aide the hopeful nurse can pursue an online CNA course, and must perform 40 hours of clinical work at the home under supervision from the Montana Health Network, then pass the state testing. The new CNA will perform 12 shifts under the supervision of another experienced CNA, and then, if they feel up to the challenge, they begin to do the job independently. According to Nixdorf, if the newly licensed CNA does not feel comfortable alone then they continue working under supervision until they can perform independently.

As a CNA the apprentice has further options in climbing their career ladder. They can choose to apply to be a MedAid which means they can administer prescribed medications, which are normally administered by a license practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN). The position requires an intensive online course and 40 more clinical hours with 12 supervised shifts. It is possible, however, to skip becoming a MedAid and go straight to pursuing an LPN or RN degree directly, explained Nixdorf.

According to Nixdorf, a LPN requires one year of formal school and clinical hours through a college such as Miles Community College or Helena College. Following that one year of schooling and the clinicals and licensing exams, the LPN can then provide a higher level of care at the home. A RN requires either an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, meaning more formal education and clinical hours. Both the associate's and bachelor's degrees can be earned online with some requirement to travel for on-site clinicals. Nixdorf explained that someone could, in theory, earn a bachelor's degree while working full-time, and never moving out of Glasgow.

She also explained that a high school student could begin work now as a utility aide at $10 an hour, and become a CNA at $12.50 an hour, then apply to become a travelling nurse and work shifts while away at college. Nixdorf explained that "It really is a great high school and college job," and that it is a great way to get started in long-term care and to learn the challenges and rewards before investing deeply in the career choice.


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