100-year-old grandmother is inspiration for CNA training school


When Mary Ann Wilson’s grandmother, Pearl Lyon, worked as a Nursing Assistant years ago, she told Wilson something that would forever change her views on nursing and helping people.

“When she (grandmother) was a nursing assistant, she always had the best attitude and always loved her job,” Wilson said. “One day I asked her why she was always so happy after working a full day and she told me, ‘It doesn’t matter how much money you make, it will never make you as happy as knowing you helped someone personally, you will always be rich in spirit and heart doing this kind of work.’ She told me if she would have had the money she would have become a RN (Registered Nurse), that inspired me to do it because I knew how important it was to her.”

Wilson officially opened Mary Ann’s CNA Training School of Nursing in December 2002. However, Wilson said she’s been working with and training Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) for more than 40 years. She said she worked for Eagle Health Care at their Meadow Glade Nursing Home from 1989 to 2002 teaching all of their CNA staff and when they closed the nursing home in 2002, Wilson said she decided to open her own school.

“I started working at a nursing home in McMinnville, OR, at the age of 14 making beds and passing food trays,” Wilson said. “By the time I was 15 I was a Nursing Assistant, at age 15 1/2 they trained me to be a medication aide, then I went to LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) school and my first job was on a Cardiac Unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in open heart surgery.”

Wilson said she then went back to school and became an RN.

Located at 5317 NE St. Johns Rd., Unit F, Vancouver, Mary Ann’s CNA Training School of Nursing has mostly pre-nursing students, but for those who are not, Wilson said she and the staff encourages them and discusses with them going on to become an LPN or RN.

Wilson said they are enrolling students at the school on a daily basis. They have a three-week day class Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and new classes start every two weeks in winter and every week in the summer. There is also an evening class that starts every month and meets Tuesdays and Thursdays only, 3-7 p.m. This evening class is designed for working students or full-time students and it takes 6-7 weeks to complete.

Although there are numerous CNA training schools, Wilson said her school has several characteristics that set it apart from others.

“As a Christian, I try to run my business with integrity,” Wilson said. “We all try to have a servant’s heart. Life is tough and we get students from all walks of life and we want to affect their lives in a positive way because that is what my grandma taught me to have. Every life is so special and since they will be working with vulnerable adults, I want them to have that kind of passion for each patient they work with.”

Aside from her positive philosophy, Wilson said her CNA school is also the oldest-running CNA training school in Clark County and their graduation rate is 98 percent. Also, she said she is a former State Board Rater (Examiner), so she has given the state tests and she knows exactly what the students need to know to pass their boards. Wilson said she also maintains a regional test site for Clark County, so her students are able to take their boards right there where they know the facility.

“We have over 6,000 square feet of classroom and lab with 11 beds and eight mannequins that we practice on,” Wilson said. “Upon completion of our program, unlike any other school, it’s free for students to come back and practice in our lab prior to their state exam.”

Wilson said she also always offers a special at the school in order to help students and give back to the community. Currently, she said they offer free books, a $60 value; free registration, $75 value; free background check, $10 value; free Tuberculosis test, $35 value; free HIV/Aids classes and more. Each summer, she said they also have a “fabulous” special. The last two years, Wilson said they gave away more than 40 free tuitions, 50 stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, several $50 dinner and movie tickets and two nights stay at the beach.

This year, Wilson said they are giving away a cruise for two to Alaska. All students are entered into the drawing and former students are entered every time they refer one of their friends to enroll.

Wilson said she is near retirement age and has been married 35 years to Gary Wilson, a retired conductor for Union Pacific Railroad. The couple have four grown children who they raised on a farm in Ridgefield. Their daughter Bobbi Sue is an LPN, son Tyler works as the school’s CPR/First Aid instructor, son Cody works in the school’s business office doing payroll and books and their son Jacob is the marketing director for the school. Gary is the school agent.

Wilson said their niece, Dusty, is one of the nurses at the school and Johanna Johnson, LPN, has worked with Wilson for more than 20 years.

“We are a family business and tend to run our school as a family,” Wilson said.

As for Wilson’s grandma Pearl, she just celebrated her 100th birthday. Their family has four generations of nurses, grandma Pearl, Wilson’s mother Janet Phillips who worked in admitting at Providence Hospital, Wilson and her daughter Bobbi Sue.

Wilson said her grandma Pearl is a “gem and loves the elderly.”

“When I was 9 years old, I would go with my grandma to the nursing home to visit and read to the residents,” Wilson said. “My grandma was an inspiration because she cared deeply for the elderly. If they didn’t have enough clothes, she would buy them some, she was constantly taking home shirts and pants and mending for the elderly. My grandma was a Nursing Assistant for about 20 years. She made the job seem so rewarding that I just knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps.”

For more information on Mary Ann’s CNA Training School of Nursing, contact school staff at (360) 546-0098 or email cnatrainingschool@gmail.com. Visit their website at www.cnatrainingschool.com.