The Lab Next Door: NTC and Sanford Health to Train CNAs at Bemidji High School

For Bemidji High School students, a career in health care now begins just steps away from their desks.

On September 5, Northwest Technical College and Sanford Health of Bemidji unveiled the Sanford/NTC Health Sciences Lab in Room 2149 at Bemidji High School. Students at BHS can now complete all coursework required to prepare them for licensure as Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and have access to a lab accessible from their high school classroom. Barb Breeze, assistant nursing faculty at NTC, will teach the CNA material on campus at Bemidji High School and guide students through use of the lab.

“You’ll be learning how to take care of residents in a nursing home, or whatever type of facility you might want to work in,” Breeze said to BHS students in attendance.

The lab includes four hospital beds, donated by NTC and Sanford Health, with two beds occupied by mannequins donated by NTC. Nicholle Bieberdorf, NTC’s dean of academic programs, said the mannequins will help to develop skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

“Students will be learning basic patient-care skills — bathing, dressing, turning and repositioning patients,” she said. “They will also learn principles of basic infection control and standard precautions like gloving or caring for a patient’s basic needs.”

Beiberdorf said the lab would help address lack of transportation, which created a barrier for many BHS students when they would need to travel to the NTC campus for a nursing lab experience. She said the high school’s shift this year from a four-period to a five-period day created an opportunity to explore having a lab on-site at the high school, eliminating the transportation barrier.

“It was really just a matter of pulling us all together — Sanford, NTC and Bemidji High School — and saying ‘now is the time,'” she said.

Speaking to BHS students, Bemidij High School Principal Jason Stanoch said the lab presented an exciting new opportunity for students interested in exploring nursing careers.

“You’re going to be our first class that doesn’t have to travel except for clinical, through this partnership with NTC and Sanford,” he said. “This classroom has become a lab, so instead of having to attend off-campus every day you’re going to have the class right here.”

NTC and Bemidji State University President John L. Hoffman echoed Stanoch’s sentiments and spoke both of the partnership and of the increased opportunity for BHS students by having a lab on the other side of a wall rather than on the other side of Bemidji.

“It is really important to see this convergence for NTC, Bemidji High School and Sanford Health,” Hoffman said. “This is about convenience and access. For students who may have had interest but couldn’t take the classes because they didn’t have access to transportation, now they can take this class and gain these important skills.”

Hoffman said the lab illustrated the strength of the partnership between NTC and Sanford Health, which could lead to more opportunities for BHS students in the future.

“One of the things that really sets us apart is that we have such a great partnership with Sanford,” he said. “Bemidji is at the heart of the medical industry that serves a very large part of the country. I hope you realize that you’re a part of a really special partnership that doesn’t happen in many parts of the country, let alone in Minnesota. It’s pretty special.”

About the Sanford/NTC Health Sciences Lab

The Sanford / NTC Health Sciences Lab is made possible by donations from Sanford Health and Northwest Technical College. Sanford Health has contributed all large equipment in the lab, including four beds valued at approximately $25,000, as well as over-bed tables, night stands, privacy curtains, bed and bath linens and a wheelchair. NTC has contributed small equipment such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, oximeters, oxygen and tube feeding equipment, wash basins and gloves. Two mannequins in the lab are currently on loan from NTC and will be replaced with permanent mannequins purchased by Bemidji High School. BHS is also providing other miscellaneous items that students will use in the skills lab.

Two anonymous private donors also contributed to the project.

The Sanford / NTC Health Sciences Lab is located in Bemidji High School Room 2149.