5 Steps to Create the Best CNA Curriculum for High School

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is one of the most in-demand medical professionals in the United States today.

That’s why so many health science instructors need a good CNA curriculum, especially in high school.

The reason why is simple – medical advancements are helping more people live longer, which means they need more professionals to give them care. Those professionals need to be educated, so health science instructors need CNA curriculum!

But where do you start? After all, a CNA does just about everything a patient could need.

CNAs help their patients (or clients, depending on the situation) with many of life’s basic necessities. Eating, bathing, and getting outdoors are all crucial parts of a CNA’s day-to-day work schedule.

They also provide regular social interaction and report to patients’ families on the health and status of an individual.

Altogether, it’s clear to see why so many CTE health science programs describe CNAs as “wearing many hats.” The trick to a good CNA curriculum is breaking all of that information down into learnable chunks that’ll prepare students for a career as a CNA.

Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch.

You can use these five steps to create the best CNA curriculum for your high school students!

1. Find Your State’s Standards

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First, you have to find your state’s medical education standards. State standards are a crucial part of every CNA curriculum, and yours can vary wildly from the other states around you.

That’s why it’s so important to research your state’s standards right off the bat.

That’ll let you know what you have to cover in your class, and it can help you write a general outline of your CNA curriculum before you dive into the meat of the issue.

Fortunately, you can usually get these standards from your administrator or the state itself.

In the event your state doesn’t have standards (only a few states don’t), you have a little more freedom and a little less direction.

That can be good or bad, depending on your outlook. But regardless of what your state has laid out for you, you still have a solid backup in terms of guidance for your CNA curriculum.

Third-party certifiers.

2. Research Your State’s Preferred Certifier

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The chances are really good that you already know what certifier is acceptable in your state.

After all, the vast majority of CNA instructors were professional CNAs themselves.

But on the off chance that you’re not sure who certifies CNAs in your state, you can use a few quick guidelines to find out. 

Some states may endorse other third-party certifying agencies, such as the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program. Others could have their own certification, like the Ohio State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA) exams.

If you’re no longer in the loop of how your state certifies CNAs, do a quick search online to find out for yourself.

The answer will form the foundation of your CNA curriculum to give your students the best possible chances of passing their certification exams, getting hired, and leading successful careers.

Certifiers could also have a whole range of standards that your state doesn’t expressly state they’ve adopted.

Once you know what goes into each exam, you can mix that information into your CNA curriculum where it’s appropriate.

(We don’t advise only teaching to a test, though. It can subconsciously push students to cheat.)

Once you have that down, it’s time to get some inspiration to make your curriculum interesting.

Namely, you can get it from tried-and-true CNA materials.

3. Get Established Teaching Materials for Inspiration

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Your biggest advantage in creating a CNA curriculum is that you’re not the first person to do it!

That means you have a huge range of inspiring materials and individuals who have already found what works well and what doesn’t.

You can make the most of their experience by tracking down the materials that worked — whether they’re activities, books, strategies, or another resource — and avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Colleagues are excellent sources of inspiring materials. If they created the resources themselves, they may even let you use the materials directly in your class without requiring you to change anything!

You can also use a variety of CNA lesson plan ideas from the Internet to teach your students.

While they may not have a colleague’s endorsement, they’re used by other teachers throughout the United States health science community.

Plus, when you’re starting a CNA curriculum from scratch, you might as well at least read the lesson plans available to spark some ideas.

If they don’t hit the mark, then you’ve only lost a few minutes of time. And if they do, then you’ve potentially saved hours of time creating the lessons yourself!

That’s all time that you can spend making your CNA curriculum uniquely your own.

And the best way to do that is by talking about your own experience!

4. Fill in the Gaps with Your Experience

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Every health science instructor experiences the health care industry differently.

Your unique experience can add valuable context, information, and flavor to your CNA curriculum that makes it engaging for students.

After all, it’s one thing to read or hear dry information. It’s a completely different thing to have that information associated with stories and examples.

That’s where your experience becomes priceless.

Your experience in the health care industry makes all the difference when it comes to fine-tuning your curriculum for your students.

The curriculum will cover what the students should know.

But your experience tells them why they should care

The triumphs and mistakes you made throughout your career are more than just events that you’ve celebrated and conquered.

When you’re in front of a class, these personal events become guideposts for students’ careers. They act as pragmatic advice, actionable insights, and a realistic vision of what they can expect as CNAs.

For some students, your experience could push them forward through their education to a fulfilling and satisfying career they’ve always wanted.

For others students, your experience may help them realize that they’re on the wrong career path.

Neither of these possibilities is bad, though. Encouraging dedicated students is always a positive quality because it means the best of your class can turn into the best CNAs.

Showing uncertain students to the door prevents them from pursuing a career that they’d probably hate, which means they probably wouldn’t care half as much as your dedicated students.

The only way that all of this can come about is with your experience acting as a major component of your CNA curriculum.

But let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Making a CNA curriculum isn’t a quick job.

So what can you do to avoid sinking hundreds of hours into a curriculum that you’ll have to change every time a new medical advancement comes to light?

The answer lies in digital curriculum.  

5. Get a Digital Curriculum

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A digital curriculum is an online solution to planning your classes, teaching your students, and assessing their progress.

It removes a lot of the tedium from planning a course since digital curriculum comes with pre-made lessons and test questions with plenty of opportunity for you to add your own.

Plus, because it’s software, it comes with a ton of built-in features designed to help you succeed. Automatic grading, student enrollment, and anytime access just scratch the surface.

When you’re building a CNA curriculum from the ground up, you can start with a digital curriculum to keep all of your information online.

That way, you can access it from your computer, smartphone, or tablet at any point.

No more hauling portfolios and supplies — you get your whole class on demand in the palm of your hand.

That also means you have access to student data whenever you want it. Did that absent student finish the homework by the due date? Are they rushing through lessons or are they taking the time to learn what you’re teaching?

You can see all of that with a couple of clicks — not to mention creating new class sections, closing out old classes, and organizing new ones.

But still, we have one big problem.

Where do you find a digital curriculum to try in the first place?

Teach Your CNA Curriculum with HealthCenter21

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HealthCenter21 is a digital curriculum specifically designed for health science instructors.

The features and content are all hand-tailored to work in high school health science courses, including a CNA curriculum.

With HealthCenter21, you can cut the extra hours you spend planning and grading to focus on your personal life more — and you can do it while delivering a quality education to your students!

In fact, there’s one teacher who’s already accomplished this exact achievement.

Her name is Stephanie Oliver, and she teaches health science at Russellville High School.

You can read how she uses HealthCenter21 to teach CNA curriculum and — by extension — how her students thrive.

Read Stephanie’s story for yourself!

Read Stephanie's Story >