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One-of-a-kind summit to honor CNAs

The CNA Summit is the first of its kind in South Dakota and will give some recognition to the "ears and eyes of health care." The summit, which is taking place today and Friday at Dakota Wesleyan University, is recognizing certified nursing assis...

The CNA Summit is the first of its kind in South Dakota and will give some recognition to the "ears and eyes of health care."

The summit, which is taking place today and Friday at Dakota Wesleyan University, is recognizing certified nursing assistants across the state, according to Stacey Patzlaff and Melissa McMillen, the two organizers of the event.

"We are just trying to bring some awareness to the CNA as a profession," McMillen said. "It's long overdue. They are the eyes and ears of health care. They are the ones that are frontline ... Nurses and doctors couldn't function without them and anybody that says they could would just be not informed."

The two-day event is part of the Rural Nursing Initiative, which proposes an increase to the number of registered nurses and nursing assistants in rural communities. The initiative received a $750,000 grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation last summer to get more workforce in rural South Dakota.

The program integrates recruitment efforts, including a CNA training program, simulation technology and integrating community experiences. This has led the duo to form the summit to recognize the CNA profession.

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McMillen said there are many associations for nurses in South Dakota, but nothing for CNAs.

"There's no avenue for them for networking or sharing ideas," she said. "However, their job is very much professional."

The summit will feature two main speakers and several breakout sessions with McMillen and Patzlaff. The two main speakers are Dr. Helen Meldrum, an associate professor of psychology at Bentley Collegian in Massachusetts, and Lori Porter, co-founder and CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants.

When describing what a CNA is, McMillen said they provide direct health care such as eating, bathing, walking, dressing or checking vital signs.

"We can't express that enough- that they're the eyes and the ears for the nurse or doctor in the health care setting," McMillen said. "They're our backbone. Without them, we can't function in health care. We just can't."

There are nearly 200 registrants from across the state, Patzlaff said. The duo hopes to make the summit an annual event.

Related Topics: DAKOTA WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY
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