Sixteen-year-old McKayla Huesers had just started her job as a nursing assistant at Garrison Memorial Hospital when she had a chance to influence how newcomers like herself are trained and certified nationally.
Huesers traveled to Chicago in July to serve on a panel that revised the skills section of the national certified nurse assistant test. She said the experience changed the way she looks at and performs her work and also reinforced her desire to pursue a medical career.
"I came back so much more confident that I am doing everything right," Huesers said. "It connected for me a little bit differently. I understood it a lot better."
Jill Schramm/MDN - - McKayla Huesers, right, hands a drink to a resident at Garrison Memorial Hospital’s nursing facility while working Sept. 7.
Huesers served on the 10-member panel with her supervisor, director of nursing Beth Hetletved.
Hetletved had served on three previous panels for the company that produces tests worldwide for different levels of nursing. Her previous panels never had included a newcomer to the field. Hetleved said this particular panel wanted to include a member with less than a year's experience to gain the perspective of someone who would be taking the test. The goal was to ensure the test is clear and accurately assesses skills. Wording of the test is critical because some applicants don't have English as their first language.
In considering a newcomer for the panel, Hetletved said, she thought immediately of Huesers.
Although Hetletved saw her as the perfect candidate despite her youth and only a month of job tenure, Huesers said she was in shock at being considered. Her parents also were somewhat leery about letting their daughter go off to Chicago with Hetletved, whom they had never met. However, after visiting with Hetletved and learning about the opportunity being presented, they became enthusiastic about the trip, Huesers said.
The certified nursing assistant test includes both written and skills testing. The skills test, which Hetletved and Huesers assisted in rewriting, includes 22 components, although each applicant is tested on only five randomly chosen components.
"It was a bit scary at first, sitting around the table with people who have done this for up to 40 years," Huesers said.
It put her at ease to hear their stories from their years as nurses or teachers and to get to know them, she said. Panel members came from Texas to Maine and Oregon to Georgia.
Huesers' insights influenced the amendments to the test. The panel ultimately removed two portions and added one new section to the test, and other modifications will ensure that applicants are tested correctly based on how skills need to be performed in today's nursing environment.
Huesers said the skills included on the test were familiar to her, but she learned so much more detail through her involvement on the panel. Not only did it make her a better nursing assistant, she said, but she came away with a better understanding of why actions are performed in certain ways.
Hetletved said the experience was valuable to her as well because it clarified what she and her hospital need to do to help nursing assistants work toward certification. The Garrison hospital provides 16 hours of classroom instruction and requires nursing assistants have at least 130 hours of hands-on training before taking the certification test.
Hetletved added that having Huesers on the panel went so well that members want to keep a spot open for a newcomer on future panels.
"She did wonderful absolutely wonderful," Hetletved said. "The passion came through."
Huesers, a junior at Max High School, admits to a passion for her job.
"I learned to love it, and I am pretty much addicted to it," she said, noting that she continues to work evenings and some weekends now that school has started.
Huesers plans to eventually become certified. When the revised skills test that Huesers helped develop comes into use in 2012, she hopes to be among applicants taking it.