In the first year of operation the Circle of Life worked jointly with Beautiful Life Nurse Preparation, a separate program funded through another grant. Working with Beautiful Life Director Elaine Borgen, the two teams mentored the first graduates of a new Medical Assistant program at the College.
In addition, many new students recruited by the programs are now enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program. The CNA program is the first step in a health care “career pathway” that can lead to employment as a licensed practical nurse, registered nurse, or in other health-related fields.
According to project statistics, there is a severe shortage of health care workers and minorities in the health professions, with only about nine percent of registered nursing positions filled by Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
The project’s goal is to identify, mentor, and help more Native Americans successfully enter and graduate from the College’s nursing and other health care programs.
According to Caldwell, the local and regional health care facilities serve a population that is from 55 to 99 percent Native American, yet only a small percentage of the health care professionals are Native American.
The program identifies students, as young as middle-school, and high school-age, who have an interest in the health care professions. The students are then oriented to pre-entry health care curriculum that includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and other preparatory classes, along with traditional reading and math classes.
The Circle of Life project is supported by a partnership called the Education Cooperative for Health Industry Professionals or eChip. It includes CEU-SJC, San Juan Department of Workforce Services, Kayenta Health Center, Utah Navajo Health Systems, San Juan Health Services, NATIVE District, San Juan School District, San Juan Department of Rehabilitation Services, San Juan Family Learning Centers, and San Juan County Commission.