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Shuttle Driver Earns CNA Certification to Protect Passengers

November 01, 2022

Heidi Ann Coughlin Heidi Coughlin enjoys working with elderly residents at The Orchards at Southington, but she wanted to do more than just drive them to doctor’s appointments and activities. Over the past three years, Coughlin noticed some clients’ strength was declining and many needed help to stay safe while traveling. It occurred to her that they’d be safer if a certified nursing assistant (CNA) could come with them. “I want to be the best driver, the safest driver,’’ Coughlin said. “I want the residents to feel safe, but I actually want them to be safe in my care.” Then it came to her: What if she could become a CNA and wear both hats?

Armed with grant funding through Hartford HealthCare, Coughlin enrolled in a six-week CNA certification program, passing the exam with a near-perfect score. These days, not only are residents safer when on Coughlin’s shuttle, her initiative helps maintain staffing levels at The Orchards since other CNAs don’t need to leave the facility to accompany residents to appointments. Her efforts have earned Coughlin recognition with the LeadingAge Connecticut Aging Services Award of Excellence and, earlier this month, as one of three honorees from across the country at the LeadingAge National Conference in Denver. When asked during a panel discussion in Denver what inspires her in a job that can be challenging at times, she spoke of the residents. “They’re intelligent, beautiful human beings and they need to be treated with dignity and kindness every day,” she said. “This is their last chapter of life and I want to make it beautiful for them.” Anyone interested in becoming a CNA at no cost should consider the next training, which starts in December. To apply, visit Hartford HealthCare Senior Services.