While many nurses across the country have experienced significant burnout due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the instructors at Leffler Academy hope to fill the gap.

Leffler Academy, located at 6050 E. 500 S. in Gas City, began offering training in Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), Personal Care Attendant (PCA) and Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) when the coronavirus outbreak started about three months ago.

“COVID has impacted the nursing field tremendously,” said owner Dr. Amanda Leffler. “There’s a lot of burnout.”

Many nurses are leaving their jobs due to mental and physical exhaustion, fear of the unknown, and the constantly changing policies and treatments, Leffler said.

“We have to continue to groom people to take over these positions and make sure we have a strong workforce,” she said.

Leffler said she saw a need for more nurses long before COVID-19 and had wanted to start the academy for eight years before launching it in 2019.

“I just had to be brave enough to do it,” she said.

Since opening in April, Leffler Academy has trained more than 65 students in CPR and 40 PCA students.

The Indiana State Department of Health recently approved Leffler Academy’s CNA, PCA and Qualified Medication Aide (QMA) programs.

“We are a state entity. We are a school in the State of Indiana,” Leffler said. “That was awesome. That was a big deal. That was hard. It’s been a lonely road, but a rewarding road.”

Leffler has worked as a nurse for 17 years and has taught in higher education for more than 10 years.

Training individuals in practical nursing is Leffler’s passion, she said.

“My goal is to continue to raise these guys up, to take these students and raise them up to continue to be awesome nurses,” she said. “That’s my goal, that’s my passion. It doesn’t matter what level you start, as long as you start.”

Many individuals cannot afford a four-year degree in nursing, but they do not need one to begin helping people, Leffler said.

“If what you want to do is take care of people for the rest of your life, I think that we give grounded material, a solid foundation,” she said. “It is a privilege to be a nurse.”

Seventeen-year-old Addyson Kendall is currently training at Leffler Academy to become a PCA, and hopes to work as a surgeon eventually.

“I feel like I’m really learning everything I need to know,” she said.

Because Kendall is the only person in her class, she said she is getting a lot of attention and one-on-one help.

As one of her family members was recently diagnosed with the virus, becoming a nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic has become increasingly crucial to Kendall.

“I want to be on the front lines helping people,” she said.

Her teacher, Joy Reed, taught nursing at Indiana Wesleyan University for 22 years.

“Nursing education is my heart, and it’s where I belong,” she said. “When I’m teaching nursing, I want them to do the right thing all the time, even when no one is looking.”

Reed said she feels like her job as a nurse educator makes her a “world changer.”

“I love waking up in the morning and knowing that I’m making a difference,” she said.

Another faculty member, Trenna Browning, worked for 16 years in bedside nursing before going to school for a master’s in education.

Browning described Leffler Academy as “warm and friendly” and said she always tries to talk directly to her students and not over their heads.

Each faculty member has a master’s degree or above, Leffler said.

“It’s very important to me that my faculty is well educated,” she said. “I put them through professional development once a month to stay current in nursing.”

While Leffler cares deeply about training nurses, she said it is vital for everyone to be CPR certified.

“If someone goes down, you need to know what to do. I think everyone should be CPR certified. Everyone,” she said. “Wouldn’t it feel good to save a life?”

Medical professionals, K-12 teachers, and everyday citizens are invited to take CPR and basic first aid training at Leffler Academy.

The Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program at Leffler Academy was approved by the Board for Proprietary Education (BPE) and is awaiting approval from the state.

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