Minneapolis Veterans Home to host nursing classes in auditorium space

Mary Mehelich, clinical education liaison for the MDVA, shows a skills laboratory to a group of staff members.

MINNEAPOLIS — Imagine taking college classes at the site of your next employer.

That’s pretty much what is happening at the Minneapolis Veterans Home. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has a new partnership with Inver Hills Community College that allows nursing students to take their classes at the home, where they have access to the facilities they will encounter in their field.

The partnership was set up “to really spark their interest in clinical care and hopefully they choose us as their place of work,” said Mary Mehelich, clinical education liaison for the MDVA.

In the auditorium of Building 15, the MDVA has set up a classroom, a resident room and a skills laboratory. The stage is being used for annual training needed for all staff employees, new or not.

Inver Hills Community College offers a seven-week course for certified nursing assistants, commonly called CNAs. The advantage of having the classes at the Minneapolis Veterans Home is the students can have the three-day clinical experience at the same location as their classes, plus during classes they can take advantage of facilities a short walk away.

Mehelich said she hopes it can become a model for other types of training besides CNAs. She mentioned professional development of the staff as one option, and she hopes veterans service organizations eventually will use the space.

The classroom is just that, a space with tables, chairs and a projector. The resident room is actually a mock room that replicates newer rooms in the MDVA’s system of veterans homes.

“We’ll be able to use it for simulation training,” Mehelich said. “If they need to practice moving someone from the wheelchair to the toilet, that’ll be a great space.”

Mary Mehelich teaches in the classroom space available in the auditorium of Building 15.

She said the skills laboratory is an area with dummies in beds, where the students learn to make beds, move residents, give bed baths, place bedpans, roll residents over and perform range-of-motion exercises, among other tasks.

The annual training — called MAC for mandatory annual competency — is done during orientation for new staff members, then annually for all.

The auditorium in Building 15 was renovated nine years ago. The seating was removed to allow for more wheelchairs and flexibility of use. The classroom was set up this past fall, and the entertainment has been moved to the community rooms, said Sandy Larson, public affairs director for the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

Mehelich said the Minneapolis Veterans Home is not short-staffed, but, in a tight Twin Cities labor market, it doesn’t want to end up short-staffed, either. Having CNA classes offered on the veterans home campus, rather than a college campus, helps ensure the facility remains strong.