James L. West Center partners with FWISD to yield promising careers

The graduates. (Photo by Cathy Neece Brown, James L. West Center for Dementia Care)

On Thursday, I joined 22 North Side High School students, along with their parents and teachers, to celebrate a special occasion: The graduation of the inaugural class for the James L. West Center for Dementia Care Certified Nurse Aide Training & Competency (CNA) program. The program is the first of its type in our community, and through this post-acute partnership, the first in the State of Texas.

To succeed in serving our growing aging population, providers must attract, retain, and develop a quality workforce, as well as expand the available labor pool. This workforce initiative is opening the door for promising careers in the healthcare industry and, specifically, aging services. The purpose is twofold: to help students recognize the aging sector as a potential career opportunity and to provide them with a workable healthcare certification that can lead them into future healthcare careers or full-time work.

The James L. West Center partnered with the Fort Worth Independent School District and North Side High School in 2019 to begin planning for this Pathways for Technology Early College Medical Collegiate Academy (PTECH)clinical partnership and certification opportunity.

While business and education often partner, this PTECH partnership is a first-of-its-kind in long-term care and is the first CNA Program to include a dementia emphasis. This cohort received dementia education in their freshman and sophomore years, with their junior year (2022-23) devoted to the Dementia Specialist CNA Program that spanned both fall and spring semesters. The fall semester included a class on the North Side High School campus led by the West Center’s RN (Registered Nurse) Educator.

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After successful completion of the classroom training, the students began class onsite at James L. West to complete their clinical/hands-on instruction.

With a 100% graduation rate, the 22 students are preparing to complete the certification by sitting for their State of Texas certification exam this summer.

I have been extremely impressed with the commitment, curiosity, and skills of our participating students.

Through our courses and in our clinical rounds, I have overheard comments that confirm we are on the right track with this important workforce development program.

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Student comments have included:

  • “I care for my grandparent at home, and, through this course, I am better able to provide care”
  • “This class has helped me achieve a certification that allows me to go to work immediately while preparing for my future healthcare career”

The excitement and outcomes related to this program have underscored the value of this workforce development program. The clinical partnership will lead to summer employment opportunities at the James L. West Center, as well as other nonprofit aging services providers in the community.

From clinical care to culinary services, the West Center has opened doors to summer employment for North Side High students who are studying in various areas.

Knowing that the students will move into summer work on our campus, and within long-term care organizations we work with, is particularly appropriate since May is Older Americans Month.

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Looking forward, these students will return to North Side High School for their senior year this fall, where they will take their second advanced medical training course to receive a second healthcare certification that further opens doors to their future.

At the James L. West Center for Dementia Care, we are honored to have been chosen as the clinical partner of North Side High School for the development and launch of this innovative workforce development program.

We are grateful to the Fort Worth ISD Administration and their vision to expand the PTECH educational model to include a new healthcare academy and clinical partnerships with organizations such as James L. West.

The success of this healthcare-focused P-TECH program continues with this fall’s cohort registering more than 40 students.

Jaime Cobb Tinsley is Vice President of Caregiver & Dementia Education at The James L. West Center. She joined the center in 2012 when she developed an initial six-course curriculum teaching caregivers how to care for loved ones. In the past 11 years, she has expanded the dementia education program to feature over 100 different courses offered to caregivers free of charge. She is an in-demand speaker at conferences for such organizations as LeadingAge Texas and Texas Assisted Living Association. Cobb Tinsley graduated from Abilene Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Her earned certifications include Certified Senior Advisor and Certified Alzheimer Educator.