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Preparing students to prepare bodies

Students who study Funeral Services have a lot more on their plate than working with dead bodies; they learn to legally run a business so they can open their own funeral home.

NCC’s Funeral Services program teaches students how to prepare a corpse so they can embalm or cremate it, along with learning how to deal with the family of the deceased.

They also learn how to present themselves as professionals, as well as knowing the sociology of the trade and how to prepare specific documents.

The Funeral Services program is ranked in the top 10 of the 58 schools in the United States. With such programs, students must take the standard 60 credits of general education classes before they can be accepted into the program. By the end of their schooling, they will have earned 92 credits in three years.

To become a certified funeral director, students must pass standardized board tests and intern at a funeral home for one year.

Upon completing the program, students will have a BA degree from NCC, a certificate from the State Board of Funeral Directors and a funeral license.

LeeAnn Smith is currently halfway through the actual program and recently passed the finals for her embalming class.

“There’s a lot more to the program than just preparing the body,” she explained. “We have to know anatomy, how to fill out the massive amount of paperwork, all of the legal stuff including the family’s privacy rights and restorative art.”

Restorative art is making the person presentable so the family can have a viewing. If a person had cancer or was in an accident, it is up to the funeral director to make them look as if they had not experienced trauma. Cremation is another area of study.

“Next semester the students will learn cremation,” said professor Tony Moore, who is in charge of the program. “Cremation is a completely different certification.”

Students must also understand the pathology that comes with preparing a body. Even though the subject might be dead, it is still possible to contract diseases including AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and hepatitis. One wrong move with a scalpel and a student can end up with syphilis from a dead person.

Funeral service is a highly competitive business. Students learn how to project a positive image so families will feel comfortable with them and choose their funeral home.

There is an entire class of funeral laws and regulations that students need to know like the back of their hand.

“We basically minor in business. We have to be able to run our own funeral home,” Smith said.

There are everyday items that a funeral director uses that might surprise someone who doesn’t know the subject.

As with any business, there are a few trade secrets that are kept on the down-low whether it’s to keep a family’s privacy or just to keep the competition guessing, but the tricks that can be shared are interesting.

The Funeral Services professor often visits local pet stores to pick up a few things to help make teaching easier.

Puppy pads are used to help potty-train a puppy, but Moore uses them to cover bed sores so they don’t get worse.

Cat litter is used to dry up the inside of a body, so it is easier to preserve. Sawdust is also used for the same reason.

“Duct tape is your best friend,” Moore said. “We use it to hold the puppy pads onto the body.”

Moore also uses Elmer’s Glue to fill in certain areas and close minor wounds.