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New Graduates Ready for Healthcare Careers Amid COVID-19 Impact

April 6, 2021

Class of 2019 Nursing Assistant Graduates at SDCCE (Eric Burke Top Left).COVID-19 abrupted the American healthcare system, nationalizing the long-standing need for skilled healthcare workers. San Diego College of Continuing Education (SDCCE), a hub for free workforce training, is pivoting new graduates hit hard by a plunging economy toward a career track in public health. Despite remote and hybrid classes, students at SDCCE are earning 100% pass rates on the state CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) certification exam.

The educational experience and clinical learning at SDCCE qualified graduate Eric Burke to work for the U.S. Government.

Prior to working in healthcare, Burke, 28 was a grocery store employee with little opportunity for financial growth and promotion.

Burke's mom, a Registered Nurse at Kaiser Permanente, encouraged her son to make the career change. “She would ask me if I considered the healthcare field and promised that I had nothing to lose,” he said.

The absence of tuition fees at SDCCE also helped Burke’s decision to go back to school after earning an associate degree from Grossmont College. “I know a lot of students who have their bachelor’s and are $100K in debt. Attending SDCCE put no financial stress on me, we pay for books and a vaccine, but that is nothing compared to the opportunities you will get,” he said.

SDCCE offers six no cost Healthcare Career certificates; Nursing Assistant, Rehabilitative Nursing Assistant, Acute Care Nursing Assistant, Personal Care Assistant/Caregiver, Home Health Aide and Behavioral Home Health Aide. SDCCE has temporarily transitioned to alternative/remote modes of instruction in response to the pandemic.

“Although SDCCE’s Healthcare program is operating in a hybrid version, our classes have continued to have 100% pass rates for the CNA state certification exam,” said Lisa Cork, SDCCE’s Healthcare Program Director and Chair. “During clinical weeks, for two days students are online where we review skills, watch skills videos, and have case scenario class discussions and then for the other two days, we are on campus for hands-on experience skills practice and demonstration.”

Burke completed SDCCE’s Nursing Assistant certificate program. The 16-week course prepares students for the state CNA examination and provides opportunity for clinical rotations at local hospitals and healthcare facilities. Graduates become certified as a Nurse Assistant by the State of California and can work in rehabilitation and long-term care facilities.

New graduates are submitting their job applications alongside millions of Americans who lost their employment due to the Covid crisis, standing out is a requirement to enter the workforce.

“The clinical hands-on experience obtained in the CNA program at SDCCE is an absolute plus when applying for positions both in the acute and sub-acute organizations,” said Sheree Scott, SDCCE faculty who formerly served as a Lieutenant Commander and Navy Nurse Corps Officer.

Burke completed his clinical hours at Kindred Hospital and at St. Paul's Senior Services Nursing and Rehabilitation.

“All hospitals require experience, at least 1-5 years and more often than not you are competing for only 3 open CNA positions,” he explained. “I put that six months of experience from SDCCE on my resume and Sharp accepted that.”

Following SDCCE, Burk was hired as a CNA at Sharp HealthCare and now works in public health administration for the County of San Diego where he supports front line workers responding to the Coronavirus.

Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, adding about 2.4 million new jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Healthcare classes at SDCCE begin in May.

Allura Garis