Online CNA Certification Information

Learn about online certification with nursing assistant courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Nursing assistants are not required to earn a certification from a professional or nationally recognized organization to practice in most states. Upon completion of a state-approved training program, nursing assistants are entered into their state's nurse aide registry list after passing an exam. The exam typically consists of a written and practical test; however, registry recognition may or may not be valid from one state to another. Obtaining certification generally means the student has in-depth nursing training at the assistant or aide level.

Approved training programs for this field are not offered fully online since students need hands-on instruction to learn key skills. Hybrid nursing assistant programs allow students to complete much of program over the Internet, while attending campus for the clinical portion of their training. These programs are preparation for becoming a CNA and award a certificate of completion as a nursing assistant or nurse aide.

Applicants to these programs must have a high school diploma or GED and CPR certification. They must also pass a criminal background check and submit documentation of immunizations and current health status, as well as SAT/ACT and placement test scores.

An alternative undergraduate certification option is the Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) designation, which is offered by the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Like CNAs, CMAs provide clinical and administrative services within medical facilities, but they assist physicians, rather than nurses. In order to earn this designation, applicants must have earned a medical assisting diploma from a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Although online programs are rare, there are some colleges that offer all the necessary classes online. Students can complete the clinical experience component at a local medical facility.

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Nursing Assistant Certificate

Prospective distance learners can find nursing assistant training - which usually lasts less than six months - primarily at community colleges. Prior to entering the certificate program, students will need a high school diploma or GED equivalent, as well as minimum scores on the school's placement test and ACT or SAT scores. Nursing assistant students usually must undergo a criminal background check and submit documentation of immunizations, health status and CPR certification.

Course Topics

Students enrolled in a distance learning CNA training program learn about performing certain procedures, how to effectively work with ill patients and the major legal issues involved in the occupation.

The following topics are typically covered:

  • Emergency procedures
  • Sanitation and infection control
  • Basic nursing skills
  • Personal care assistance
  • Communication skills
  • Mental health
  • Ethics and laws

Hybrid Learning

Similar to on-campus programs, hybrid CNA programs are usually composed of three different parts. The first portion uses textbooks to cover the theories commonly used in the profession, which can include two or more online courses specifically designed for nursing assistants or aides. In addition to textbooks, students typically must purchase uniforms and equipment to use during training.

Students usually complete the video instruction and testing portion that covers the practical aspects of a CNA position. The final part of the program includes hands-on clinical training, which most programs require be taken at the college. Some programs combine the online coursework with the information covered in the on-site clinical training.

Students in CNA programs study medical topics, but they also explore legal and administrative issues and build communication skills and bedside manner. Theoretical coursework is delivered through a virtual classroom environment, but a final clinical experience must be completed on-site.

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