GALAX, Va. – The Southwest Virginia Healthcare Academy opened its doors last month to help address the healthcare shortage in Southwest Virginia.
The organization’s mission is to recruit and retain a qualified, highly skilled healthcare workforce for the region, according to its website.
Kristina Alsobrooks, one of ten students with the Southwest Virginia Healthcare Academy, wanted to advance her career to become a certified nursing assistant.
“I started my healthcare career in 2005 working in the hospital setting,” Alsobrooks said.
After working with the hospital, she developed a passion for helping people.
“I have a client that wants sugar, I’m not afraid to give her the sugar that she wants, and what I mean by sugar is she wants kisses,” Alsobrooks said.
Mary Testerman is a registered nurse who teaches students in the program.
“We have 22 skills that we have to learn in a short amount of time,” Testerman said.
Testerman said skills include essential handwashing to keep the patient safe, and some others are proper bath washing techniques, as well as how to transport an immobile patient properly.
Students must learn 22 techniques in about seven weeks.
The goal is to ensure students have the necessary skills to enter the workforce, especially since healthcare workers say there’s a shortage.
“I can keep classes going all the time, and there still wouldn’t be enough to fill that need,” Testerman said.
Jackie Fox, the CEO, said opening the academy took about six years.
“We saw the need of producing the quality caregiver, and offering opportunities for caregivers who wanted to further their education,” Fox said.
Fox said her team recently got the approval to open the doors last month. Now, she has an entire class of ten students.
“It’s amazing, I feel very humbled, a bit overwhelmed at times, a little emotional but very grateful,” Fox said.
Because of the need, Fox said she plans to offer night classes in the fall.