Thinking Creatively About Communication in CNA Classroom

Top Row: Jakyrah Foster, Vickie Dilly (Instructor), Dora Lee. Front Row: Cyntauja Bell, Dexter Young, Brittney Denson

Top Row: Jakyrah Foster, Vickie Dilly (Instructor), Dora Lee. Front Row: Cyntauja Bell, Dexter Young, Brittney Denson

It's Goodwill's mission to provide vocational training to individuals with barriers to employment; check out our work with Dexter Young, who is determined to become a CNA even though he can't hear his patients.

Goodwill’s Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program has a long history of producing some of the finest CNAs in East Tennessee. The program is an intensive seven week course that includes up to 164 hours of classroom and clinical instruction taught by a Registered Nurse (RN.) The course is designed to prepare students to take the Tennessee State Nurse Aid Training exam and become State-Certified Nursing Assistants.

Right now, the class in Knoxville is in the clinical portion of their studies, spending their days at NHC Farragut where they provide hands on patient care to seniors in long-term rehabilitation after an injury. The students are learning to put into practice the skills and techniques they’ve learned in the classroom over the last four weeks, and they agree: working with real people is hard.

“You learn a lot more working with a person than with a dummy,” explains Cyntauja Bell, a mother and Goodwill Scholarship recipient who is trying to provide a better life for her and her family. Until this week, Cyntauja and her classmates have been working exclusively with classroom dummies; now that they are in a clinical setting, they realize that it takes a lot more energy to assist the different personalities that they meet during their rotations.

One student in particular faces a challenge with communicating with his patients. Dexter Young is 19 years old, just graduated from the Tennessee School for the Deaf and is hard of hearing. “Most of the time [the patients] can understand me,” Dexter told us, through his interpreter, Ryan Worden. “I use both my voice and signs.”

Dexter’s hearing and speech are limited, and he primarily relies on sign language to communicate with the people around him. He doesn’t let his communication barriers slow him down though. He has proven to be an intelligent and kind person, excelling in the challenging CNA class.

“Dexter is our first deaf student,” said Goodwill Employment Training and Rehabilitation Coordinator, Bridgette Smith. “Dexter’s enrollment in the class was a learning experience for all parties involved. We learned how to challenge Dexter, while providing the support and accommodations necessary.”

With the help of a sign language interpreter provided by the Division of Rehabilitation Services and an amplified stethoscope designed for the hard of hearing, Dexter keeps up with his classmates. They are even learning a bit of sign language from him, an added bonus to their typical curriculum.

“I’m training to be a CNA because I really love taking care of people,” Dexter told us. “It’s really been a good experience.”

The class expects to graduate next week, and all of them will be ready to take the next step in their careers. Most want to continue their education to become Registered Nurses (RNs) or Licensed Nurse Practitioners (LPNs.) With their CNA education, they will be on their way towards their goals, with all the skills they need to begin work in a clinical field.

Goodwill provides vocational training and employment opportunities to people with all sorts of barriers to employment. CNA classes are offered in Knoxville and Morristown. Learn more and find the next class date here.