OTTUMWA — Pick up somebody's gross germs from a doorknob, and there are plenty of nurses who will treat the resulting cold. But some nurses will add in a lesson on hand washing.
"We're teaching things to avoid communicable illness," said Jacquelyn Pope, R.N., a nurse in the Health and Wellness department of the Ottumwa Job Corps Center. "Hand washing is big. The first week trainees arrive, we make sure their immunizations are caught up, give flu shots ... there's a lot of preventative care."
The health care team at Job Corps knew that this week was National Nurse Appreciation Week. But they were more proud of the certificate their office received for scoring well above the national average in patient satisfaction, as voted on by Job Corps students across America.
Their secret is twofold. One, said Keitha Cutsforth R.N., the wellness manager, is laughter. The nurses and staff try to keep things light. But not too silly, because the second secret to success, said health and wellness clerk Kaitlyn Brown, is providing a professional environment where Job Corps trainees will be reminded of the most important goal on center.
"Employability," she said. "They need to be on time for their appointments, on center or when seeing a specialist [in the community], they need to bring [appropriate records or forms] with them."
"... that they reschedule their appointment if they can't make it," added Pope.
These students may end up in the same field. Eveline Nduwimana, 21, is enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Ottumwa Job Corps.
"We learn how to take care of residents ... at nursing homes, hospitals or at their home," she said.
Some of the work will be hard, but that doesn't bother her, she said. Lifting a patient, helping them shower or use the bathroom is all just part of service to others.
"I like helping people out," she said. "I always have."
One would hope that would be a common trait in health care. The pros echo Eveline's feelings.
"It's rewarding, knowing we made a difference every day in the lives of young people," said Pope.
"The pictures tell the story," said Cutsforth. "They have a picture taken when they get here and when they leave. You should see the difference from when they first arrive to when they complete."
She said living with three roommates in a considerate way is good practice. "At a job site, how do you get along with the person next to you?"
Nearly all the jobs students may get when they graduate from the program are going to involve getting along with others, whether it's the boss who hires them, a customer or a co-worker.
"If the resident is too heavy," said Eveline, "you want to make sure you have a second person to help. Because you don't want to injure yourself — and you definitely don't want to injure the patient."
But Eveline has her own instructors for the CNA program. The wellness staff members are there for every student.
Students, upon arrival, may have ADHD, diabetes or mental health issues. Most things can be managed in the wellness office.
The students, required to be from low-income homes, may arrive with dental trouble, too.
"Some of them have never been to see a dentist," said Brown, who helps trainees fill out paperwork for health care resources.
"One of our main goals," said Cutsforth, "is teaching them how to manage their own health care and how to advocate for themselves. They've got to learn that now, because they're not always going to have free health care."
Pope said social interaction is practiced, both in their office and elsewhere on campus. The Job Corps director has frequently said that no matter what an employee's job is, they are to teach and model proper, professional behavior — and ensure trainees do the same. That goes for teachers and cooks and secretaries — and nurses.
"We can help them learn," said Cutsforth.
"Please, thank you," listed Pope, "calling adults mister or misses, that bullying is not appropriate."
"Every opportunity we have we try to educate them," Cutsforth said, "especially about how wellness relates to employability. In fact, we may do more education than nursing."
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark.