Nurses like Fran Johnson, RN, (right) help students enter the medical field through Moore Norman Technology Center’s Certified Nursing Assistant program.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

It’s just before a mandatory clinical orientation meeting and Fran Johnson’s cell phone rings.
“Yes, you give the extended release first,” Johnson reassures whomever had just called searching for some timely advice. “But eventually the patient will not be able to take the extended release P.O.”
Calls like these come all the time for Johnson, the training supervisor of the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Moore Norman Technology Center.
And she never seems to mind.
“They still call,” Johnson says of former students who keep her on speed dial.
And why wouldn’t they?
This November marks five years for Johnson at Moore Norman Technology Center. A former inservice education coordinator for two of the largest nursing home companies in Oklahoma, Johnson taught CNAs in the corporate world how to go into a client’s home with confidence.
Now she gives that same confidence to her students who are looking to take the next step in their careers.
“Whether they were going to the nursing home, the hospital or assisted living they want to get into the healthcare field,” Johnson said. “I (enjoy) being a mentor, a leader and helping them get onto the right track.”
The ongoing healthcare shortage makes programs like Johnson’s in high demand.
Many students aged 19 to 21 come right out of high school looking for a way to get into the healthcare industry. On the opposite end of the spectrum Johnson sees those in their 50s and 60s come in looking for a career pivot.
“They still call me for good places to go,” said Johnson, who admits that no matter what facility she goes into she usually can find a couple of her students. “I do enjoy working with students. They are my main customers and they are the ones I help train, build up and pour into because they need that little push.”
Working in the corporate sector she covered Tulsa, Western Oklahoma, Eastern Oklahoma and everywhere in between. Now she’s a staple on Oklahoma City’s south side.
Johnson estimates that nearly 20 percent of her students use the CNA program as a springboard for their nursing career.
Many nursing programs give preference points to applicants who have their CNA.
“I believe it’s an eye-opener,” Johnson said of the program. “When they get in it they will determine if it’s for them or they really want to go into computers or auto mechanics or something like that. Most people who come into it usually have the stick-with-it to make it.”
Success for Johnson is measured in different terms.
She’s a product of the Career Tech system, where she became a nursing assistant in the 1970s.
“From the Career Tech I was pushed to go on to college and pursue the RN,” she said. “I wanted to pursue the LPN but my instructor said ‘you go straight on into it.’ I went straight into that RN program after high school.”
“I was a product of Career Tech and I know what it did for me. It helped me determine this was what I wanted to do. I had the best instructor.”
Johnson would eventually matriculate from nursing school at Langston University.
Today, she has 11 instructors working under her teaching students to become CNAs, CMA, AUA and prep courses.
Nearly 500 students each year pass through the programs.
Many of Johnson’s instructors are nurses who have experience with nursing homes. Others come directly from local hospitals.
“They like working with students,” Johnson said. “It makes their jobs easy because they enjoy the one-on-ones with students in the lectures and the labs. They all have a passion for education.”
Nearly 12 years ago Moore Norman Technology Center became the first Career Tech flex program in the state allowing students to enter healthcare on their own schedule.
Moore Norman’s flex program is both affordable and flexible, allowing students up to 20 weeks to complete coursework on their own schedule. Some students who want to get into the medical field right away can complete their coursework in as little as three weeks, including two days of clinicals at a local long term care facility.
During her nursing career, Johnson worked medical surgical, oncology, mother-baby as well as rehab.
It was in rehab where she found her passion for the elderly, but it was at Moore Norman where she found her passion for helping others find their passion.