As Florida's population gets older, the demand for trained health care professionals is exploding. Now some schools are responding to get students on the fast track to these careers.
Cynthia Bryant loves working with students at Southern Technical Institute in Pinellas Park. Bryant is a licensed certified nursing assistant, or CNA, for a home health agency. She decided to follow her dream of a career in the medical field after 30 years working at a grocery chain and becoming a widow.
"You go in there and make that patient happy and make their day just by fixing a meal or massaging their back after a bath. That makes them happy," Bryant said.
Right now, it's easier than ever to find a CNA job. Southern Technical Institute says it simply can't graduate enough students to meet the demands of local employers.
"You have nursing homes, hospitals, then you have the home health agencies, all fighting for the same pool of people," said Randy Fuller, the school's executive director.
In fact, Career Source has listings for 320 open CNA jobs in the Tampa Bay area. A popular job search website shows more than 1,500 openings within 50 miles of the city. Because of the huge need, many employers are offering signing bonuses and more.
"Once you get that CNA license, you can go work for a facility that offers tuition reimbursement and a lot of our students, go into say a nursing program and with that CNA license work for an employer then have their school paid for," Fuller said.
Students can complete some of the CNA programs in as little as two weeks for around $250. Bryant says it's a no brainer for anyone looking for a good career. She's now teaching health care classes, and pursuing a nursing degree and hopes others will think about a career in the fast-growing field.
"Just the little things make our job rewarding," Bryant said.
Randy Fuller with Southern Technical Institute also suggests if you are considering becoming a CNA, to be careful about where you go for school. Some centers only offer CNA test preparation and therefore do not require specific accreditations. He recommends selecting a school licensed by the Department of Education and checking the school's rating through the Better Business Bureau.