North Valley nursing program offered to Atwater High School seniors

ATWATER, Calif. (KFSN) -- One North Valley high school is offering a rare opportunity where students can earn a nursing certificate upon graduation, getting hands-on experience without having to leave campus.

The Certified Nursing Assistant program at Atwater High School offers high school seniors a chance to earn part of their college credits without having to leave campus.

Clarissa Mounce joined this program with plans of becoming a surgeon, but in the short term, she is hoping to work as a certified nurse assistant to help pay for her future schooling.

"I always wanted to go into the medical field, I want to be a surgeon when I get older and I wanted the experience," explained Mounce.

The CNA training program is in partnership with Merced College and it's aimed at preparing students for day-to-day duties that caregivers encounter on a regular basis.

Beyond that, the goal is to get them comfortable with having to care for another human life.

"We kind of just try to go over the different skills -- there's about 23 total in the book. Just making an occupied bed is one of the difficult skills," said Mounce.

Organizers have been working on expanding the program for some time. They admit the curriculum is challenging, but say it's beneficial for students in the long term.

"We start with having these students from their freshmen to sophomore year, and how this program works is they take an intro class that's related to healthcare, they take a concentration class that's related to healthcare and then they finish their senior year with a capstone," explained Raj Mehat, Instructor of the program.

Not all high schools are able to provide this type of certification. It's rare to offer certificate programs at the high school level in some districts, but the Merced Unified School District is aiming to change that, getting future nurses and doctors ready for real world problems.

"When you're young and trying to figure out what you want to do, even though some say oh, I want to be a nurse or I want to be a doctor one day to actually at that age make the choice to go in and to patient care," said Kitty Cazares, RN & CNA Director with Merced College.

"It's literally putting them ahead of so many other students whether they are going to be applying for a nursing program," added Mehat.

"I feel a little prepared and with all the practice, I think I'm ready to hopefully shadow a resident," exclaimed Mounce.

Upon graduation, students will have options and be able to join the workforce with jobs at places like hospitals and long-term care facilities.
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