ONTARIO — Treasure Valley Community College’s Board of Education has approved the allied health program, which is another step in making the Poverty to Prosperity’s career and technical education program a success.
Now, the program has to be approved by the state and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
“TVCC is still awaiting on final approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities,” said the college’s interim vice president of academic affairs, Eddie Alvez. “That is the final step in the process.
If everything goes according to plan, the medical assistant program will be fully accredited by the time the students who are starting this year are ready to receive their certificates.
Once students progress through the program, they will officially become certified medical assistants.
The allied health program is in its first year. Charlene Pelland is teaching three sections of her class, Exploring Health Careers, to 66 sophomores and juniors in Vale, Ontario and Nyssa.
“We are going to start it with sophomores, but there’s a few juniors thrown in there this year that can get their [certified nursing assistant certificate] as well,” said Mark Redmond, director of curriculum and instruction at Malheur Education Service District.
Pelland teaches first period in Vale, travels during second period and teaches third and fourth periods in Ontario. She then teaches sixth period in Nyssa.
“She’s in three different schools with three different administrators and three different sets of policy, and she’s making it work,” Redmond said. “It’s the same class, just three different places.”
Pelland said all the administrators have been easy to work with and have made her transitions between districts smooth.
“If Ontario has something that keeps me longer, I call Nyssa and they have somebody cover my class until I can get there,” Pelland said. “It works out well.”
This year, the 66 students in the program are receiving an overview of the health field through Pelland’s class.
“We’re looking at what jobs they could look into going into within the health field, and it doesn’t have to be nursing,” Pelland said. “There are other types of jobs out there in the health field that they can go into.”
Next year, those who are interested will be split into two classes, a certified nursing assistant class, which can take up to 10 students at a time, and a medical office assistant class, which can accommodate 30 students. At the end of the semester, the students switch classes.
“More can fit into the medical office assistant than can into the CNA, so there’ll be some that can’t go into the CNA,” Redmond said.
Students are chosen for the CNA classes based on their interests, academics, a physical and a background check. Those who don’t get into the CNA program are encouraged to attend TVCC’s CNA classes, which are usually scheduled in the evenings and through the summer.
“As long as they’re 16 years old, they can take the CNA class,” said Nicole Albisu, superintendent of Ontario School District. “They can still take the class and be on track to have the certificate.”
TVCC’s summer CNA class typically runs a month and is held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week. Financial aid doesn’t cover the class, which costs between $700 and $800, according to Cathy Yasuda, executive director of the TVCC Foundation.
“So next year, in a perfect year, we’ll have 20 kids get their CNA, and those 20 kids would also have this medical office assistant [class], and then there’s going to be a group that has just the medical office assistant [class],” Redmond said.
Their senior year, all of the kids who took the medical office assistant class will have the opportunity to take five college-level courses to complete their medical office assistant pathways certificate.
“It’s embedded in the medical office assistance program,” former vice president of academic affairs, Rachel Anderson, told the Argus in March. “So they’ve got their pathways certificate, they can go out and get a job, or they can decide to continue on to TVCC to complete their [medical assistant certificate]. It gets them about half way through the program.”
Students need a total of 53 credits to complete a medical assistant certification. By the time they graduate high school, they will have 27 of them under their belt.
“They could finish it up in a year,” Anderson said.
Those who decide to go in a different direction than taking classes at TVCC will have general education credits that are college transferable.
“The sophomore year classes are just high school elective classes,” Anderson said, “but the rest of them are all college electives.”
Though it’s great to have a few college credits out of the way at high school, the purpose behind the career and technical education program is to help students matriculate to TVCC and enter the area work force after college graduation.
“We don’t want to just have kids job ready,” Albisu said. “We want them to go on to TVCC, and this just enhances that. They’re already enrolled in TVCC, so why not continue that?”