By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN
When Elizabeth Clement was growing up in British Guyana, she never thought she would be able to go to college. “I immigrated to Minnesota in 2014,” she said, “and was surprised to learn that college would be possible for me here. In Guyana, only the very wealthy have that opportunity. My first step was to enroll in the Nursing Assistant Training at the International Institute of Minnesota, where I developed a set of practical skills. I completed their eight-week program four years ago, and got a job right away.”
Clement was hired by the St. Anthony Park Home, just a mile up Como Ave. from the International Institute. It is a privately owned and operated skilled nursing facility that provides long and short term care, rehabilitation, respite care, and hospice services. While Clement continues to develop her skill set there as a nursing assistant, she is also working toward a BS degree as a registered nurse at St. Paul College. She is determined to make her childhood dream of becoming a nurse a reality.
Mona Salazar is the director of nursing at the St. Anthony Park Home. She said, “It is just that sort of determination that develops excellent employees. Since the International Institute approached us about forming a partnership in 2002, we’ve hired well over a hundred of their nursing assistants. The first group of graduates that we hired struggled with English, so the International Institute came on-site to our facility to offer extra language classes (at no charge) including conversational English, medical terminology, and phrases that were frequently used with patients. We paid the nursing assistants for the time they spent studying, and their English quickly improved.”
“Entering the medical profession as a nursing assistant is a great way to get started,” Salazar said. “The International Institute offers its tuition-free training program to immigrants, and they gain practical experience here—as we are a clinical training site. Many of the students do their practicum at the St. Anthony Park Home: they learn to bathe patients, attend to basic needs, and check vital signs. Seven of our current nursing staff started as nursing assistants, and are now either licensed practical nurses or registered nurses.”
Salazar explained, “Employees and residents comment that this facility has a home-like feel. I’m very proud of our ethnically rich staff.
Photo right: Youa Xiong went through nursing assistant training in 2010 and has worked at the St. Anthony Park Home ever since. A native of Thailand, she now lives in the Como neighborhood with her family and became a licensed practical nurse in 2013. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)
Most of them have had to overcome significant obstacles to finish their educations, to work on their English skills, and to learn to understand our American culture. We’ve had nursing assistants come to work with us from Myanmar, Thailand, East and West Africa—almost every country you could imagine. Wherever they come from, it seems that they’re used to caring for multiple generations in their home countries. They are natural caregivers, and we’ve all learned from that.”
Residents at St. Anthony Park Home have benefited culturally from the diversity of the nursing assistants too. According to Salazar, there have been many ethnic song and dance performances over the years, shared meals from the traditions of other countries, and even a lesson by Ethiopian nursing assistants on the proper preparation and serving of the world’s best coffee.
The St. Anthony Park Home was built as an orphanage more than 100 years ago. Located at 2237 Commonwealth Ave., just behind the Children’s Home Society, the facility transitioned into being a nursing home in the late 1950s. It’s been owned by the same person for 27 years, and most of the department heads have been in their jobs for more than two decades. The 84 bed, three-story facility is very much part of the neighborhood.
For more information about the Nursing Assistant Training at the International Institute, contact Julie Garner-Pringle at 651-647-0191 (#314), or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Students are required to pay $30 for a background check, $100 for the state Nursing Assistant certification test, and to provide their own uniform, but otherwise there is no cost.