Jenna Leo knew she wanted to work in the healthcare field but was not sure where to start. Her interest in Science led her to UGA, where she earned a degree in Biology, but her experience as a longtime gymnastics coach would not be sufficient to change careers. A Google search led her to our Certified Nursing Assistant course and changed everything!
Jenna began coaching in high school and continued after she graduated college. This role helped her realize how much she wanted to continue working closely with people. This piqued her interest in CNA programs, which she learned could help prepare her for an active job in patient care.
“After college, I knew I wanted to explore a career in healthcare, but I wasn’t sure how to get started,” Jenna said. “After some research, I found the CNA position and thought it was a great way to get hands-on experience working with patients.”
She found our program via a Google search. Having taken classes with us before, Jenna said the decision to enroll in the CNA program was a “no-brainer.” She said, “I knew that KSU has a lot to offer its students and was excited to come back.” The program provided her with much-needed experience, education and training.
“I learned how to do a number of skills including taking vitals, safely transferring patients, and providing daily patient care,” she said. “This program taught me how to safely care for patients and enabled me to have supervised clinical exposure in the hospital and in the nursing home. [It] gave me the basic skills I needed to work safely in the hospital and taught me to think about how my actions in the clinical setting could impact my patients.”
Jenna graduated in December 2015 and said her professional certificate added a competitive edge in the job hunt. She began 2016 with a new career.
“Even though I did not have previous experience as a CNA, employers took note of my certification and clinical hours,” she said. “I was employed less than a month after graduating from the CNA program.”
In addition to a new credential from CPE, Jenna was also prepared to take the State of Georgia Nurse Aide Competency Examination. She said the instructors really helped guide the class in pursuing state certification.
“I remember feeling well-prepared for the exam from attending and actively engaging in class, “she said. Her advice for others preparing for state certification is to utilize the skills book.
“Make [it] your best friend!” she emphasizes. “By practicing all of the steps to a skill multiple times, the skills exam can be a breeze. Always remember that no step is too menial.”
Jenna has prolonged her success by continuing her education, earning a Master of Science degree in Nursing from Augusta University. She said learning is constant in the field and doesn’t end once the class does. She believes engaging in ongoing educational opportunities is essential for healthcare employees, regardless of their position.
“Certifications are a huge asset in the health community and can only help you in your profession. Do your research, ask questions, and then take a CNA course!” she said. Reflecting on her time in our program, she said, “The instructors at CPE are experienced healthcare professionals and help you every step of the way.”
Her career goals have also come to fruition. In same year she was hired as a CNA, she was recognized as 2016’s Pediatric Employee of the Year. In 2018, she was hired to work with the Pediatric Unit at Piedmont Athens Regional.
“When I was a CNA on this unit, my responsibilities included taking vitals, assisting the nurses during procedures, rounding on patients and helping them with daily cares, and ensuring environmental safety,” she said. “I am looking forward to transitioning to the responsibilities of the Registered Nurse.”
Next on her list is becoming a Certified Pediatric Nurse and a Clinical Nurse Leader. She said our CNA course provided a strong foundation for her to evolve out of gymnastics and into nursing.
“As a CNA, I worked with nurses every day,” Jenna said. “So, now that I am transitioning to a career as a Registered Nurse, it feels like less of a shock as far as career changes go. In retrospect, I would not change what I had done.”
The collaborative nature of the healthcare field and the different people she meets are a few of the factors that make this field so enjoyable for her. Jenna considers herself lucky to continually be surrounded by other professionals who take an interest in her success.
Most of all, she thrives on connecting with patients – just like she did with her gymnasts. Jenna said, “It is a great feeling to walk into work knowing that I am there to help someone through their day and hopefully make it a little bit easier for them.”