Our ESOL Certified Nursing Assistant program began in May of 2017. After an initial period of three class cycles in one calendar year, we have settled into a routine of two class cycles a year. This class has been very well-received and usually has a waiting list.
In the last five years, there have been four nurses and one doctor who have taken the class. This semester, five out of nine students come to us with medical backgrounds! There is a nurse from Puerto Rico and an emergency room nurse from Brazil. There is a dentist from Haiti. Finally, we have a mother and daughter from Cabo Verde. They both have medical degrees, one in veterinary sciences and the other in oral/facial trauma surgery.
Our curiosity was piqued. We wanted to know what their hopes were for themselves and their families when they decided to come to the United States. We wanted to know why we have so many people with medical backgrounds enrolled in this semester’s class. We wanted to understand why they chose our school and our CNA class. Finally, we wondered what did they leave behind when they decided to come to this country and what will their path be as they move forward.
Three students stated that the decision to come to this country was based on safety…..feeling safe here in the United States, feeling endangered in their country. One woman, the dentist, spoke of the need to get her children away from the constant gang violence in Haiti. One member of the class was already a refugee from the violence and civil wars that gripped several west African nations. The second biggest hope for the majority was to improve their English so they could access better work possibilities that do not exist in their native countries.
When asked why they chose this school and this class, the responses were similar. Most stated that they know our school and class have good reputations. Overwhelmingly, the students spoke about the class being completely free. With the exception of a TB test, they do not have to pay for anything.
The students were very honest about what they left behind. In most cases it was jobs, homes, and family. One student left her mother behind. Another student left behind a home that would fit right into any beachfront community here in the US. The student who left behind a career as chief of surgery said it is better to be middle class in America then it is to be wealthy in her own country.
It seems that all of the students enrolled this semester are using this class as a gateway into the healthcare system in the United States. Those students who currently hold advanced medical degrees are striving to once again practice medicine. They recognize the length of the journey and are willing to do what it takes. The four remaining students say that a Nursing Assistant job is a way to make money and continue to go to school for nursing.
--by Donald France