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Teenage volunteers kick out for retirement home jobs

Jasmine De Moya, 17, has dreamed for years of working in the medical field, and she yearned to spend time with elderly people, missing her grandparents, who live in the Dominican Republic. A program sponsored by the New Jewish Home Health System in New York City that combines volunteering with free training for entry-level health jobs, career coaching and assistance with college preparation helps bring life to life. his hopes.

Over the past three years, Jasmine has learned a lot about caring for the elderly, from the importance of speaking slowly and being gentle with frail residents, to how to brush or wash their teeth.

“We first trained with models, so when we actually (worked on residents) I was in shock,” she said. “Cleaning up a body and its private spaces, I didn’t expect to do it. But then I got used to it.

Last summer, Jasmine trained as a certified practical nurse. She has also researched and applied for colleges and student loans with the help of an organization that the Geriatric Career Development Program offers volunteers like her. After graduating from high school in June, Jasmine will begin nursing school at Lehman College in the Bronx in the fall. She will be the first in her family to attend university.

Since its launch in 2006, the program has helped more than 700 high school students from 10 underserved New York City schools gain hands-on experience in geriatric care at Manhattan’s New Jewish Home and Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Gardens in the Bronx. Ninety-nine percent of program participants graduate from high school, and over 150 have attended university.

The benefits of the program are also evident for the New Jewish Home, which operates two nursing homes, senior residences and assisted living facilities, and a home care business in the New York City area. By familiarizing young people with careers in geriatric care, the system aims to meet its growing need for workers as the wave of baby boomers enter their final years.

Six of the 10 fastest growing jobs in the decade leading up to 2029 are expected to be in healthcare, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“One of our biggest challenges is that there aren’t enough people who want to work in this industry,” said Dr. Jeffrey Farber, president and CEO of the New Jewish Home system.

The New Jewish Home began its career development program for teens 15 years ago with the idea of ​​training and hiring them as practical nurses, Farber said.

But it became more than that. By working a few afternoons a week for three years with older adults, students learn about aging and develop relationships with residents. It also helps students determine their career goals and put the pieces in place to achieve them.

“I think students would be successful without us, but we provide the structure and resources to help them be successful,” said John Cruz, senior director of workforce initiatives at New Jewish Home, who oversees the program.

Students typically have to spend two afternoons after school each week and several weeks during the summer, Cruz said. The program initially teaches students the basics of patient privacy, Medicare / Medicaid and overcoming stereotypes about the elderly. By the time they graduate from high school, students can train as certified practical nurses and work as paid interns.

As part of the program, students can also become certified in other jobs, including patient care technician, phlebotomist, ECG technician, and medical coding and billing staff.

The pandemic has changed things, however. Manhattan’s New Jewish Home has been hit hard, with dozens of deaths from COVID-19 at the 514-bed facility.

Since volunteers were not allowed inside the facility, the house hired many of them part-time so that they could continue to help the elderly and undergo clinical training for their certified nursing assistant course.

In February, the state announced that nursing homes could once again accept visitors, in accordance with federal guidelines. But many nursing home residents still rely on virtual tours, and this spring Jasmine helped them connect with loved ones through iPad or phone.

The isolation has been hard on the residents. When asked how the students had helped her, resident Dominga Marquez, 78, replied, “Just talk.”

“We are alone,” Marquez said. “I have a lot of friends who came every week to visit, but with the pandemic, no one has come.”

Kennedy Johnson, 17, said helping seniors experience virtual tours made him realize how much he took for granted.

“With the pandemic and virtual calling, seeing how these families don’t interact with their loved ones every day has really opened my eyes,” he said.

Working at the New Jewish Home was the first time Kennedy saw the kind of work staff members do.

In the fall, he will start at Morehouse College in Atlanta and plans to major in political science. His goal: “I want to be a healthcare lawyer so I can represent people… like that. “


Kaiser Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Visit khn.org.

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