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CNA certification in Two Harbors

A certified nursing assistant and a resident embrace at Ecumen Scenic Shores. A CNA licensure program will be offered at Two Harbors High School beginning on Feb. 4. Photo: Ecumen Scenic Shores

On the heels of a new program offering welding and millwright certification in the county, local residents will soon be able to earn a certified nursing assistant license in Two Harbors.

Two Harbors High School formed a partnership with Mesabi Range Community and Technical College to meet the needs of manufacturers in the area. Now, they are turning their attention to the health care industry. Due to the retirement of baby boomers, it is expected that job openings in health care will be plentiful.

"The next step was always to start thinking health care," THHS Principal Brett Archer said.

CNAs work in a variety of healthcare settings providing direct care to patients. The classes, taught by Mesabi Range instructors, will take place at Lakeview Memorial Hospital and the clinicals--hands on training for the future CNAs--will take place at Ecumen Scenic Shores.

"We're trying to be proactive in thinking, how can we build our pool of applicants?" said Blaine Gamst, executive director at Ecumen.

Offering a CNA course in a small town isn't unique. According to Gamst, it's done across the state and Silver Bay has a program at the Minnesota Veteran's Home. However, the collaboration of the high school, the college and the two health care providers is a new approach.

"Our partnership is really unique," said Greg Ruberg, director of rehab services and risk management at Lakeview.

The course is about 110 hours and will be spread over six weeks. It will cost about $600 at current Mesabi Range Community and Technical College tuition rates. According to, the lowest wage for a CNA in Minnesota is $10/hour and they can be paid up to $17/hour.

The first round of classes will begin on Feb. 4 with class times tailored to participants' needs--they will likely be held on nights and weekends. The program will initially be open only to high school graduates, but Archer said next fall they will open it up to high school students. If the CNA classes go well, the program will expand to include a Licensed Practical Nurse certification in the spring of 2014.

Working as a CNA is a good opportunity for people interested in health care to try out the field in an important entry-level position. Ruberg said about 50% of CNAs go on to obtain a higher level of nursing certification.

"It's a great stepping stone to get into a nursing career or anything in the medical field," Gamst said.

An added bonus: those hired at Ecumen are reimbursed for their education costs and can apply for scholarships to receive more training.

Anyone interested in learning more about the CNA program can attend an informational meeting at Two Harbors High School on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria. The program director and instructors will be on hand to answer questions. Admissions counselors will assist those who want to enroll.

LaReesa Sandretsky
LaReesa Sandretsky is a Two Harbors High School graduate and Duluth native who began working at the News-Chronicle in 2012 as a reporter. She took over as editor in 2014. She covers County Board, including the Lake County broadband project.
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