Online CNA Classes – What You Need to Know


Online education is growing steadily in many fields, while absolutely exploding for medical support degrees and certifications. Whether as a supplement to on-campus education or a full replacement of it, online courses in disciplines such as medical assisting, nursing, radiology, and medicine are growing in popularity and gaining respect as a legitimate form of education. Training for Certified Nursing Assistants is available at least partially online, although many employers prefer to hire CNAs with experience in a clinic. Earning certification requires CNAs to complete at least 75 hours of state-approved training, so whether you choose online, on-campus, or some combination, make sure to confirm that your program has approval. CNA certification doesn’t have to be the end of your education, either. Many CNAs go back to school to become nurses or move into other support staff positions in hospitals or clinics. If you’re a CNA already and you’re looking for online classes to become a healthcare administrator or even a nurse or doctor, this guide can help you too! The graph below shows the increase of students taking at least one online course over several years in the early 2000s, according to data from The Sloan Foundation. Hundreds of thousands of new students enroll online each year, and CNA students are included in this trend toward online learning.

Online or On-Campus: Choosing Your Path

Deciding whether you want to take classes online or on-campus should be pretty easy. If you have a job, or kids to take care of, you probably don’t want to cram a few hours of classroom learning into your daily schedule. Taking classes online gives you a little more schedule flexibility, and is often less expensive than attending a campus college.

There aren’t really degrees offered in “nurse assisting.” If you’re interested in being a CNA, you can probably take care of the 75 hours of state-required training at a vocational school or even at a medical facility, while working as an uncertified medical assistant. If you get a degree, though, you’ll be more likely to be promoted to managerial roles, and it will be easier for you to go back to school to get a nursing degree or other more advanced credential. The knowledge and skills you’ll learn in CNA training include:

  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Infection Control
  • Personal Care for Others (including feeding and bathing residential patients with various levels of ability)

These skills will all still be applicable if you decide to pursue a nursing degree and become a Registered Nurse (RN) later on.

Moving On Up

If you enjoy assisting nurses, and think you’d be well suited to being a nurse yourself, there are a few ways you can go about transitioning from a job as a CNA to another career in allied health, or a job as an RN or advanced practice nurse (APRN).

  • Take online classes while continuing to work as a CNA. This will help get you closer to the associate’s or bachelor’s degree you’ll need to become an RN, but you’ll still have some income to make life a little easier.
  • Enter a full time BSN to MSN program. If you’re comfortable being in school full time, doing an accelerated program to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing in as little as five years can rocket start your career. An MSN qualifies you to work in a number of exciting and well paid specialties of nursing, and you’ll have much more leverage to choose where you work, as well as making your hours, and negotiating for higher pay.
  • Enter an allied health degree program. Allied health encompasses medical professions outside dentistry, nursing, and medicine, so if you want to work in medical billing and coding, administration of a healthcare facility, or another non-doctor position in the medical industry, getting an associate’s degree in an allied health field might be a good option for you.
  • Become a military medic or nurse. The armed forces offer financial aid to current and former members, so you might even get your education paid for. If you want to join the military, but general infantry isn’t your cup of tea, think about military medical support.

Online Classes for Allied Health Professionals

Most college programs start students out in general education classes, and move into more specialized courses in subsequent semesters. For nursing assistant training, allied health programs, and even nursing degrees, there are a few bases that need to be covered before you get into the meat of the curriculum. These basic requirements will include:

  • Ethics: Anyone in a medical program needs to understand and be able to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This piece of legislation is designed to protect private medical data while still allowing it to be distributed to doctors, nurses, and medical specialists who need to know it in order to work with a given patient. Medical ethics classes are a crucial part of any healthcare education.
  • Patient Relations: Basic courtesy and empathy are naturally important for medical professionals. But interacting with seriously ill patients and their families can require a little more finesse than day-to-day life usually requires.
  • Communications: A large part of many medical support jobs is being able to accurately keep records and communicate detailed and important medical information efficiently.

How to Get The Most Out of Your Online Classes

When you take classes online, you really need to be good at budgeting your time, because nobody will be breathing down your neck and making you get work done. If you’re the kind of person who takes every opportunity to procrastinate, then online courses probably aren’t your best option. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of any online classes you take, whether you’re supplementing your education or getting a whole degree through the internet:

  • Participate Heavily: In an online discussion, it is pretty easy to sit back and just watch the text scroll by without absorbing much of anything. By forcing yourself to contribute, even if you normally wouldn’t “raise your hand” in class, you up your level of engagement, and you’ll remember more of the discussion.
  • Budget Your Time, and Stick To Your Budget: Decide when, each day or week, you will do your homework, and do it at that time. Developing regular study habits will make online class sessions feel more official, so you take them as seriously as you need to to succeed.
  • Get Clinical Experience: Your resume will look a lot better with even a little bit of clinical experience on it. Even if you’re only taking classes online, volunteering for a couple hours each week at a clinic or nursing home will make you much more employable when you’re out of school.
  • Study for the Test: Many healthcare occupations have some kind of competency evaluation or certification test that is required for all practitioners in the field. If you look at some studying materials or even try out a sample test while you’re still in school, long before you have to pass the test, you’ll have a better idea of what to pay extra attention to while you’re in class.

Finding the Best Online Courses

Finding a high quality program that is accredited and can meet your needs will take some research, but this list of health care schools, including schools with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and allied health fields, is a good place to start. Click a school to get more information about it and learn whether their accredited online program offerings have what you need to get started toward the healthcare career of your choice.

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