RappU raises the academic bar

Not ‘just for fun classes’ this spring 2017 semester

After visiting the new RappU Lifelong Learning and Workforce Training facility on Lee Highway in Sperryville one has to wonder what academic inroads are next from founder Doug Schiffman.

Photo by John McCaslin
RappU’s new Nurse Aide Training Lab in Sperryville.

Take RappU’s new nurse aide training lab: an entire classroom equipped with three hospital beds, life-like manikins, and extensive array of medical devices, equipment and supplies. If you didn’t know better you’d swear you were standing in a hospital ward.

“We received our approval from the Virginia Board of Nursing, so we are certified now to teach a nurse aide class in Virginia,” says the visibly pleased Schiffman, pointing out that such a certification level is a highly regulated process.

“First they have to review the application, including the curriculum we’re using, the textbook we’re using, the lesson plan we’re using, and they provide you with a list of required equipment and supplies that need to be present in your training lab,” he educates. “And then they actually come and inspect — they were here on Wednesday for almost two hours.”

Besides Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), RappU Workforce Training — a step above RappU’s widely popular “non-credit just for fun classes” — is now able to offer certificate-bearing courses in a variety of healthcare specialties, including Medication Technician, Home Health Aide, and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basic Life Support.

Nurse aide students, Schiffman continues, will receive 85 hours of classroom training in Sperryville and 45 hours in a clinical environment — in this case Valley Health’s Lynn Care Center in Front Royal, which provides long-term care as part of Warren Memorial Hospital.

“They will have nurses coming from this class to supervise them in Front Royal,” notes Kathy Grove, who besides her involvement in the nurse aide training oversees RappU’s ever-intriguing lineup of lifelong learning classes.

RappU’s Kathy Grove and founder Doug Schiffman in the new nurse aide training lab.

“We trained nine local nurses, of which probably six will be instructors — three primary instructors and three backup instructors,” Schiffman adds. “Nurse aide training ends with a certification exam, and after they finish the entire [RappU] program they have to take a state exam. Only when they pass the state exam are they called certified nurse aides, and then they can work in a hospital, a nursing home, or any kind of long-term health care facility.”

Suffice to say, no certified instruction to this degree has ever been offered in Rappahannock County.

“It’s obviously why we did this,” says Schiffman, who launched RappU a mere 18 months ago. “The hope is that we will not only train many of our local people, but having a trained healthcare workforce will bring more healthcare into the county. Valley Health has been our partner in this — they’ve given us money, they’ve given us help. We couldn’t have done this without them.

“And the goal has always been to get them to open up at least an urgent care or walk-in clinic [in the county] and hire the people that we’ve trained.”

Adds Grove: “This provides a career path for people, whether they’ve recently graduated from high school, didn’t graduate from high school, are older and want to establish a new career — this is a way to start that career and achieve certification. And there are plenty of employment opportunities. It can really change a life for somebody living in this county in terms of employment.”

“There’s a second program that we’re doing which is Home Health Aide,” Schiffman announces. “It’s not as rigorous as nurse aide. It’s 40 hours in the classroom, one day in an assisted living facility, and then an exam . . . And then they can work in an assisted living facility, or more importantly they can work in the home, say you have an elderly parent that you need somebody to look in after.”

“It can even be a spouse who wants that training,” Grove injects, “on how you help somebody to roll over, give them a bath, etc.”

Photo by John McCaslin
RappU displays state mandated healthcare supplies for new certification level nurse aide training in Sperryville.

Medical training is just one field of study at RappU, which for the Spring 2017 semester alone has 280 registrants enrolled in 30 classes — Birding for Beginners to Understanding the Middle East.

“The talent in the county is unbelievable,” boasts Grove, referring to the many volunteer instructors from Rappahannock. “I sit in on these classes, and somebody with 30 years in the Federal Reserve is teaching the Federal Reserve class; John Tole is singing songs from the Civil War era as he talks about slavery in Rappahannock County; and Al Regnery and Stephen Brooks are talking about American politics and trying to model civil discourse. It’s just fabulous.”

Reaction from the community has been equally enthusiastic. Indeed, many classes fill up as quickly as enrollment opens.

“The Dayn Smith class!” Schiffman exclaims, referring to the course “Think Like a Chef“ — taught by the internationally renowned restaurateur from Glen Gordon Manor, Puerto Rico and beyond. “Registration began at midnight. I got up at 6:30 and there was already a waiting list.”

“Dayn agreed to open a second section,” notes Grove. “We filled that one and we still have a wait list.”

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