The Sophomore Class
On February 13, ten women graduated from JFS’ second East End Personal Care Aide (PCA) training program. All of them began the next week working at JFS as state-certified PCAs caring for seniors and adults with disabilities with Medicaid insurance. As Richmond’s population ages, PCA is the fastest-growing position in health care. A PCA certification can be a first step in the health care field towards becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse, and beyond.
JFS launched the free training program for East End residents in 2019 alongside community partners Richmond Redevelopment and Housing, Richmond Public Schools, and Peter Paul Development Center. Focus groups of East End residents were essential in shaping the program to include flexible schedules, workforce development training, and more time to practice in-home care skills. Fourteen women graduated from the first East End PCA course last spring.
Ten women signed up for JFS’ second East End PCA class, and all ten graduated and earned their Personal Care Aide certifications! Building on feedback from the first class, JFS added even more class time for participants to practice their hands-on skills and learn other workforce development skills. Virginia requires 40 hours of training for PCAs; JFS’ course is 70 hours over six weeks, scheduled during school hours to minimize interference with the participants’ other responsibilities.
The ten new Personal Care Aides and their families packed the Sarah Garland Jones Center for the graduation ceremony. Stephanie Toney, RN, BSN, the lead instructor of the East End PCA training program, said, “This moment is all about you, and the perseverance and resilience it took you to get to this place. Every client that you have will be privileged for you to be taking care of them.”
Ishalcie Rutledge, one of the graduates, spoke on behalf of the class. “When I first heard about the program, I was nervous to apply. But, Ms. Suzette [the Resident Services Coordinator at Whitcomb Court] kept emailing me, saying she thought I should do the class. At first, I had missed the deadline, and I was really sad. But, then a spot opened up.
“I was scared because I have seizures, so I didn’t think I would be able to do it. But, the instructors Stephanie and Iesha were very understanding and my classmates were very helpful as well. I’m very grateful for this program, and I’m proud of all of us. I can’t wait to see what this year brings.”
As the new PCAs took photos and ate cake with their families, Ms. Rutledge said, “I’m just glad I took this opportunity. I believed in myself, and my family and my classmates believed in me too. I’ve wanted to be in the nursing field for so long. The instructors held us accountable and supported us. They worked with me on my schedule. I’m so grateful to JFS, and I will recommend this class to my friends!”
JFS is profoundly grateful to everyone who made this day possible, especially the instructors and participants, our community partners in the East End, and the visionary donor who sparked this program. (And, many thanks to Tom Topinka for the wonderful photos!)
Congratulations, new PCAs!