By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
A shortage of nurses, a shortage of professional training programs and a lack of ways to get Del Norte County welfare recipients off of assistance will be smaller problems here next fall with the start of a new program to grow local registered nurses from the ground up.
A $1 million nursing lab and class program coming to the College of the Redwoods-Del Norte Campus will allow students right out of high school to follow all the steps toward becoming a registered nurse and every certification in between.
"That's the beauty of it. It's a career ladder. You can enter at the ground level and go as far you want to," said Dennis Conger, director of Rural Human Services, Inc. a private non-profit agency focusing on winning grants that help people in need.
RHS is also home to the Workforce Center which helps unemployed locals match or gain skills with available jobs in Del Norte.
Conger partnered with Gary Blatnik, head of the county's Health and Social Services Department and Vice President of the college, Sharon Dyer to win the $1 million grant to get the program going.
The money will buy training mannequins, hospital beds, text books and other equipment and will pay for two instructors and the classroom for the first two years of the program.
What's most exciting, said Blatnik and county Supervisor Jack Reese, is that several CalWorks participants will have the chance to get in the program and become skilled workers.
"This is something I've advocated for all along for CalWorks. Filling jobs hard to fill because of lack of training. Now we are training," Reese said.
Though there is already a nursing program at College of the Redwoods, it is a specialized two-year class to train Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN) and seats only 15 students.
"Currently, we are unable to produce enough LVNs to meet employers needs, but this program will double the number of LVNs graduating from the Del Norte campus," Dyer said.
Plus, the program will train students to become Certified Nurse's Assistants, In Homes Support Services personnel, dental hygienists and more advance training toward LVN and RN status.
Conger said many people can qualify for financial aid to help them pay for the classes and materials. He said classes in English and Math required before entering the program will be offered this summer along with tutoring help.
"So if people have trouble with fractions for instance, we will have support for them," Conger said.
To find out about financial help and the summer prerequisite classes contact the RHS Workforce Center at 286 M Street.
A high school diploma or passge of a General Educational Development (GED) test and a clean background check are required.