New jobs for new Americans

At IIMN, they’re working to fill the certified nursing assistant shortage

There is an increasing need for health care workers in the United States, especially since many left the medical profession after the challenges of COVID-19.
The International Institute of Minnesota, (IIMN), 1694 Como Ave., Saint Paul,  is working to fill that need by providing Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes specifically for new Americans.
The classes, according to program manager Julie Garner-Pringle, have been going since 1990. Garner-Pringle has worked with the program for the past 15 years. With a background in teaching, she taught English in Hungary and Egypt before coming to IIMN to teach English to adults. Other support staff for the CNA program include English language teachers from IIMN, and a nurse is responsible for teaching the program content.
Garner-Pringle said two tracks of the CNA training are taught: an intensive seven-week course and supportive eleven-week course. “We let the students know that the training will be like a full-time job,” she explained. “The seven-week course is Monday-Thursday and the 11-week is Monday -Friday.”
According to Garner-Pringle, the state requires a minimum of 75 hours completed for CNA certification. “IIMN has 150 hours in the intensive class, and 300 hours in the longer supportive class, so we are way over the minimum hours required.”
She said there is a pretty thorough screening process for students. They must verify they are from another country but have permission to work in the United States. They need to have an intermediate level of English. They need to be fully vaccinated and complete a phone interview.
“We want the students to have a real desire for healthcare work,” she added.
Garner-Pringle said some of the students come from countries where others languages are the primary languages, and some come from countries where English is mainly spoken. “Some also have advanced degrees but have to start all over when they leave their country,” she noted.
“Being a CNA is a good place to start if someone wants to advance in a health career,” Garner-Pringle said. She said IIMN is very supportive of students going out and finding a job upon completion of their training, but also supports those who want to continue their health-care education.
The CNA students are able to do their classroom training, as well as clinicals at IIMN, and they can also take their state tests at the same location. “This is very helpful,” she said. 
“Students don’t have to worry about finding a new address on the day of their test, and here they know where all the supplies are. It is just a more comfortable setting.”
There is plenty of space available for classes, since IIMN recently underwent an expansion, doubling its size. The building has been under construction the past couple of years.
Garner-Pringle said the ideal CNA class is about 12, and classes range from 10 to 14 in student numbers. “We try never to go over 14 in a class,” she stated.  In 2023, there were 10 groups of cohorts, and, in 2024, IIMN is hoping to have 16 groups. “It’s very exciting,” she said. “If we can offer more, we don’t have to wait for the next class to start.”
She said there is usually a waiting line, and the classes include both males and females. Since its inception 33 years ago, the program has certified over 3,000 students.
“We know health care is a very rewarding career,” Garner-Pringle said, “but we want to make sure that our students have the desire to be in it. That desire is very important.”
As well as seeking students, IIMN is also seeking more staff members to work with the CNA program.
IIMN has recently celebrated 100 years of welcoming immigrants and refugees to America and assisting them with training, English, immigration services and much more.


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