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Public school program to help nursing shortage

By By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
March 23, 2004
Meridian public schools are doing their part to help ease the nationwide nursing shortage by giving at-risk high school students skills they need to become nurses' aides after graduation.
Wanda Jones, executive director of the Mississippi Office of Nursing Workforce in Jackson, told the Meridian School Board on Monday that nine Meridian High School students recently completed the Meridian Workforce Investment Act nurses' aide program.
The course lasts seven weeks and teaches high school students medical terminology, how to take patients' vital signs, how to transport patients and how to collect specimens.
The program, the first of its kind in the state, is paid for by a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority and the Twin Districts Workforce Area Grant. Riley Hospital provides classrooms, clinical sites and staff.
After graduation, Jones said, students who have gone through the program are well on their way to becoming certified nurses' aides. All they have to do is take a class and an exam and they will be qualified, she said.
Meridian public school employees Beverly Pennington and Robyn Hancock oversee the program for the school district. Pennington is program coordinator and Hancock is employment specialist.
The second nurses aid course begins today; 11 Meridian High School students are enrolled.
In other business at its Monday meeting, the Meridian School Board re-elected Fred Wile as president, Ed Lynch as vice president and B.J. Barrett as secretary.
Benny Hopkins, director of security for the district, and other security personnel told the school board that they received state certification in security last week from the Mississippi Department of Education.