The Basics of CNA Programs

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Thanks to the rising popularity of the nursing profession, CNA programs have popped-up all across the country in recent years. The resulting proliferation of courses being offered has created a major challenge for would-be students, however – determining how to compare the quality of these programs against one another. With this in mind, we’ve prepared the following guide to certified nursing assistant training programs in order to help you understand what to look for and, more importantly, how to decide which course in your area best satisfies your needs.

Different Types of CNA Programs

All CNA classes cover the same basic material, but the way in which they present it can be quite different. There is also the all-important issue of program recognition – whether through formal accreditation or approval by the state board of nursing – that also separates the wheat from the chaff in the arena of certified nursing assistant training. Below is a breakdown of the most-common types of CNA programs one is likely to find.

Vocational Schools and Career Colleges

CNA programs at vocational schools

Certified nursing assistant courses offered by vocational schools and career colleges typically offer accelerated training programs that can be taken either online or on-campus. Because there are so many different institutions under this umbrella that offer CNA training classes, it is difficult to make any kind of generalizations about their quality. It is safe to say, however, that the better ones provide certification courses on-par with the finest nursing schools in the country.

A Note on Program Accreditation

Aside from the obvious things one would look for when trying to decide whether or not a CNA program is reputable (e.g. student reviews), it is particularly important to find out if a vocational school is recognized by one of the major nursing accreditation bodies. Accreditation by an organization like the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education) or recognition by your state’s board of nursing is an indication that the school in question meets the minimum standards set for professional education.

Community College Programs

community colleges

A traditional place to receive CNA training is your local community college. Courses offered at these public institutions must be recognized by an accrediting body, and continually adapt to meet changing standards in healthcare education. Quality is typically good, fees are usually lower and student success on the certification exam is generally high.

One drawback to community college CNA classes, however, is that class sizes tend to be large and spots fill-up quickly. This potential drawback is something to consider if you feel that you may need personalized instruction or are simply in a hurry to finish the training and find a job.

Free CNA Programs

Organizations like the American Red Cross and many assisted living communities also provide CNA classes. While these courses are often referred to as “free”, they do include some fees that students will have to cover. In the case of nursing homes and similar facilities, it is also quite common to find that one of the conditions for acceptance into the training program is an agreement to work for the organization for a specified time period upon becoming certified.

Online CNA Programs

Online Programs for CNA

The newest form of training for aspiring certified nursing assistants is undoubtedly the online program. Taking CNA classes online affords students the opportunity to study all of the theory and knowledge-based course material from home on a flexible schedule. These types of classes do not, however, eliminate the requirement for students to attend clinical training in a laboratory setting or local healthcare facility. The better programs do usually coordinate these hours on the student’s behalf.

Because the vast majority of online courses are offered by vocational schools, the same notes on program accreditation and state recognition apply.

Which Type of Program is Right for You?

While the preceding information may help clarify some of the different types of CNA programs that you’re likely to find during your search, it doesn’t necessarily tell you which one is best in your particular situation. Making this decision requires a person to have a good understanding of his or her own learning style and what time and monetary limitations may exist. The goal of all of these courses is to prepare students to pass the CNA certification exam. Keep that in mind when evaluating each school’s relative pros and cons.