Masonic Village has a way of turning its volunteers into part or full-time employees, and vice versa. George Whiting, a CNA at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, is no exception. He started as a teen volunteer the summer before his junior year of high school, then took a job in food services as a dining attendant in the Masonic Village Health Care Center. On his 18th birthday, George applied to work with Masonic Village’s home care program as an aide and became the first high school student to work for home care. Even working two part-time jobs and finishing up high school, he still put in hours volunteering. His volunteer hours and time in home care helped him realize that it was time to make a job change.

“I wanted more interaction with the residents instead of being in the kitchen behind a counter,” he said.

As a result, he decided to start CNA training. Becoming a CNA also lined up with his long-term goal of becoming an LPN. George knew that having the hands-on experience would benefit him once he started his LPN classes.

“I actually had to arrange special permission to attend the June CNA class since I had graduation practices that week, but it all worked out!” George said.

Unlike LPNs and RNs, CNAs do not perform medical tasks. Their role involves non-medical direct patient care. George works second shift, which means he assists residents with their evening meals and bedtime routines. This can be a hectic period, which is why he says time management is essential – and part of what makes his work challenging.

“You can have multiple residents needing your assistance, but you have to prioritize your care,” he said.

However, the rushing around all becomes worthwhile when George has meaningful interactions with his residents.

“I love it when I can make them laugh or do the smallest things that make them smile,” he said.

Besides the constant time crunch, another inevitable hardship of working in long-term care nursing is having to mourn the loss of a resident who you have built a relationship with over time.

“It never gets easier,” he said

Fortunately, George is left with lots of great memories, even if the individual he shared them with is no longer there. He’d be the first to tell you he gets as much out of his relationships with his residents as they do from him.

“They have taught me so many things! One time while working in home care, a resident who had a visual impairment wanted me to make her mashed potatoes from scratch. As easy as it seems, I never was taught how to, so she walked me through the steps and gave me some helpful hints,” he said.

George recommends that anyone interested in CNA training should volunteer in a health care setting so they can see what goes into the job and decide if they want to do it themselves. He also advises that starting early is best.

“It might be intimidating to be the youngest aide out of a whole group, but you can absorb so much knowledge from your senior aides. And it’s a great stepping stone to becoming a nurse!”

Since graduating from Elizabethtown Area High School last year, George has been working at Masonic Village as a CNA and taking classes at Willow Street CTC to become an LPN. He graduates in December, after which he wants to work full-time while enrolled in a part-time LPN to RN bridge program.

“My ultimate goal is to get my master’s degree in nursing administration/leadership,” he said. He credits Masonic Village with allowing him to discover his passion for nursing and helping him achieve his dream.

“Before working at Masonic Village, I wanted to go into aviation, but my years volunteering and working closely with the residents have completely changed my career path. Ever since my first job in food services, Masonic Village has provided me ample opportunities to grow. They are currently helping me get through nursing school, providing me hours that fit my schedule and an opportunity to watch what nurses do on a daily basis while working as a CNA. I cannot wait to see what my future LPN/RN career has in store here.”