Mississippi Student Nurse Mentorship Academy
The Mississippi High School Nurse Mentorship Academy (Academy) is a collaborative effort between the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce (ONW) and partners such as funders, school systems, hospitals/healthcare facilities, community colleges, community organizations, workforce investment areas and local Workforce Investment Network (WIN) job centers. ONW provides program oversight. The Academy is a program for individuals (18 – 21 years old) with an interest in health-related careers (emphasis on nursing) and meets twice per week for eight weeks and for one month (typically June) in a Certified Nurse Assistant program. The Academy currently serves high school seniors or GED equivalent.
The Academy offers advantages to student participants (participants) by the following: provides an alternate conduit for participants to enter nursing and other healthcare professions; creates meaning and excitement for school and provides opportunities for a successful future in a healthcare career; offers participants the opportunity to complete a state-approved CNA program and secure employment while in or out of college; and provides increased scholarship opportunities from sponsoring hospitals and colleges. Furthermore, the program is a natural recruitment tool for community colleges, universities, and employers.
The Academy encourages qualified candidates to continue their education in Mississippi nursing schools, offering excellent career mobility to the students, while assisting in the alleviation of the statewide nursing shortage. The Academy provides assessment, tutoring, education/training, psychosocial, financial, and placement support. With this additional training and support (mentoring), these participants are more likely to enter the most appropriate educational track, to successfully complete the program, and become self-supporting with good paying jobs and good benefits.
The Academy is designed to give high school seniors the opportunity to explore health-related fields first hand by participating in job shadowing and educational experiences. The intended outcomes are two-fold: 1) to have participants at each site successfully complete both Phase I and Phase II of the Academy, and 2) to have the participants either enroll in a health-related program of their choice or become employed as a nurse assistant. Either of these two outcomes would ultimately lead the participant down a viable career path or provide trained workers for the healthcare workforce.
The Academy accepts high school seniors or out of school at-risk youth between the ages of 18 – 21 and offers them healthcare education and job shadowing. Each Academy is divided into two phases. Phase I is an eight-week mentorship class that meets twice per week. The first day is classroom style where the participants receive basic medical terminology, an introduction to basic skills, an overview of the divisions and departments of a hospital and other health care facilities. The second day is reserved for job shadowing. The participants are paired with healthcare professionals – usually RNs, LPNs, or CNAs. The participants follow or “shadow” their assigned professional as they work a typical shift.
At the end of the eight-weeks, Phase II begins with the participants enrolling at a partnering community college in an 80-hour Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) course. Once the participants have successfully completed Phase II, they are eligible to sit for the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) examination. When the participant passes the NNAAP examination, the participant is prepared for the workforce. Many participants have become certified nurse assistants (CNA) and are working in this capacity while attending college. These participants are gaining valuable hands-on experience while learning theories and techniques associated with their chosen fields of study.
The timeline for the Academy is typically as follows:
- September – November: Application packets are prepared, updated, and distributed. Recruit students. Conduct interviews. Select student participants (participants);
- January – February: Convene orientation meeting with participants and their parents;
- March – April/May: Participants begin 8-week class and job shadowing (Phase 1);
- June – July: Participants enter an 80-hour Certified Nurse Assistant Program at a Community College and take the NNAAP examination; and
- August: Follow up with each program site and conduct assessments.
The natural educational and training career ladder that exists within the field of nursing continues to be an early recruitment and employment opportunity. A participant may progress from a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) program to a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), to a Registered Nurse. Other healthcare careers offer similar ladders with many benefits for students entering these programs.