Anyone who pays close attention to the northern Ohio economy knows getting into the medical field provides a reliable cure for unemployment.
Most medical jobs that pay reasonably well require at least a few months, often years, of training.
But one job -- working as a state-tested nursing assistant -- can provide a fast track into the field.
After training for about a month and passing the state's test, which includes a written exam and demonstrated ability to perform the necessary hands-on skills, a person can get a full-time job with benefits that pays $11 to $14 an hour, said Viki Kaszonyi, adult education director at EHOVE.
EHOVE offers a class that provides 88 hours of instruction over three weeks, prepping people for the state test, which EHOVE also administers.
"If they want to get a job as an STNA, they are able to get a job," Kaszonyi said. "There are still plenty of openings, and projected openings are good as well."
School officials who study job prospects in Erie, Huron, Ottawa, Sandusky and Seneca counties have found there are about 200 job openings a year in the area, not counting home health care aides, Kaszonyi said.
Michele Bartson, 30, who passed her STNA test in 2006, works at Stein Hospice.
She had worked as a cosmetologist and an office administrator but wanted to get into nursing, so she decided to try the STNA program and trained at a school in Toledo. The weekend classes took five weeks to complete.
Bartson also is certified in massage, so she provides a variety of services for her clients -- including hair care -- and has abandoned plans to become a nurse.
"I love what I do right now," she said.
The pay for STNAs ranges from $8 to $12 an hour, she said.
Casey Cook, 29, Oak Harbor, also a Stein Hospice employee, answered an ad in the newspaper and trained as an STNA in a nursing home in Oak Harbor.
"From what I understand, the medical field is always hiring," Cook said. "It's a good program to go through if you don't have a whole lot of time."
After Cook dropped out of the work force to have children, she let her license expire and took a refresher course at EHOVE to become an STNA again.
That's not uncommon, Kaszonyi said.
"We have quite a bit of people who come in for retraining," she said.
Working as an STNA can provide a stepping stone for becoming a nurse, or training for another job in the medical field.
"There are some nursing programs out there that require the STNA to even be considered for admission," Kaszonyi said. "We have a lot of girls working for Stein who are currently going to school, working for LPN or RN," Bartson said.
Not everyone is well-suited to work as an STNA, Kaszonyi said.
"It has to be people with caring and gentleness about them," she said. "It's certainly hands-on care. They have to be willing to work directly with patients. They have to have a certain physical stamina with them," she added. "They have to be able to do the academic side as well."
Kaszonyi said three other medical training programs at EHOVE offer particularly good job prospects.
All doctors' offices have medical assistants who check in patients, take their height, weight and blood pressure and write down symptoms. They have to know medical terminology, coding and procedures.
"You've come in contact with them and you probably thought they were a nurse," Kaszonyi said.
EHOVE offers a nine-month program in the evenings for such jobs.
Phlebotomists -- the technicians who draw blood for testing -- also are in demand.
"Every hospital and lab site needs them," Kaszonyi said. "They're finding work all over the place."
A seven-month EHOVE program, also in the evenings, trains them, she said.
Surgical technologists assist in the operating room during surgery, setting up a sterile field and assisting the surgeon by providing instruments.
"It's a very, very competitive, tough program to get through," Kaszonyi said.
Surgical technologists, however, also get better pay than other medical technology staffers, earning about $15 an hour, she said. The EHOVE program is a daytime program that takes about nine months.
Potential students who want to get into the medical field but can't handle blood and other medical realities can be medical administrative specialists who deal with billing and coding.
All of EHOVE's programs, including medical and nonmedical training, are monitored to make sure that there are job openings available for people who successfully complete the training, Kaszonyi said.
Prospective students can browse the school's offerings by visiting the school's Web site at ehove.net.
Terra Community College also offers the program. For more information, visit terra.edu.