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How to Make an STNA Curriculum in 6 Steps

The State Tested Nurse Aide (STNA) is one of the most in-demand career tracks in Ohio today.

With a growing need for health care workers in general, Ohio’s medical institutions need the workers who can do the basics – and do them well!

But Ohio’s STNA test can change over time. It can also require different skills and proficiencies as medicine changes (which is a lot).

So where do you even start with an STNA curriculum? Essentially, it takes six steps:

  1. Research the latest version of the STNA exam
  2. Use STNA information in your curriculum
  3. Reference your experience
  4. Differentiate classroom instruction
  5. Practice the test itself
  6. Build in time for remediation

But before we get to all of those, we need to talk about the elephant in the room.

Is it good or bad to teach to a test?

Teaching to a Test: Good or Bad?

Before we jump into the curriculum itself, let’s talk about teaching to a test.

As a concept, teaching to a test is often compared against teaching for mastery.

Essentially, a class solely focuses on preparing students for an exam, or it focuses on giving students information they crave for a passion of theirs.

A class designed to exclusively prepare students for a test is clinically proven to increase cheating and academic dishonesty

In a nutshell, students don’t want to learn a test — they want to learn a subject.

That means it’s not enough to look at a practice test for the STNA and drill your students on it every single day.

Instead, you have to teach your passion while mixing in preparation materials for the STNA exam.

In a perfect world, your professional experience combined with hands-on practice would let a student get 100% on the STNA exam.

Still, everyone’s professional experience is different, and every student learns differently. That’s why the STNA exam exists in the first place.

There has to be some standard for those who work in the medical field!

In that respect, the exam is a great benchmark for medical professionals.

You just can’t teach only to the STNA exam.

This is how you can create a curriculum that prepares students for the STNA exam without just “teaching to the test.”

1. Research the Latest Version of the STNA Exam

It’s a fact that the STNA exam changes.

As a result, it’s important to know what’s actually on the test.

While you’ve already earned your STNA certification, the test you took is probably different in many ways from the one that your students will take.

Medical technology and changes in procedures are just a few reasons why. At the end of the day, you can always bet that something has changed in health care, even if you haven’t heard of it yet!

(As Stephanie Oliver of Alabama says: “A textbook, once it’s published, is already outdated in health care.”)

Unfortunately, there’s not much information you can readily find online about the STNA exam. However, you can always get in contact with the Ohio Board of Nursing, which plays a part in the STNA certification process.

With their help and input, you can easily get the information you need!

Once you have it, it’s time to work that information into your STNA curriculum.

2. Use STNA Information in Your Curriculum

While you definitely don’t want to teach directly to the STNA test, you still need the information in there that’ll help your students pass the exam.

Otherwise, they’ll be well-informed about nursing in general — but they’ll be high and dry when it comes time to take the test!

As we implied above, this is often easier said than done. STNA information is challenging to find online, so your best bet is to contact someone at the Ohio Board of Nursing to learn more about what’s currently on the exam.

Mixing that information with the theory and practical portions of your curriculum is a great way to ensure students remember what they need.

The theory section is especially important. That’s where you lay the foundations for the tasks and procedures that students have to perform.

You can establish expectations students should have on their first day in the field, how they’ll interact with coworkers, and even the social dynamic they could expect with colleagues.

With that theoretical foundation, you’re ready to dive into the practical, procedure-focused portion of your curriculum.

This is where students get a handle on processes they’ll need to master in a medical environment.

It’s also where you can test their ability to think and improvise. Maybe they need to take a patient’s blood pressure, but as they do, they detect a noticeable lump under the skin.

What do they do next? Is it best for them to ask the patient themselves, or should they report to the doctor first? And if they have to report it to the doctor, how do they go about ensuring the issue is addressed?

This is just one scenario, but it’s one of thousands that an STNA-certified professional could encounter in their careers.

So how can you discuss that scenario in the safety of a classroom?

The answer lies in your own professional experience! 

3. Reference Your Experience

If you’re like most other health science instructors, then you’ve already worked as a health care professional for years before deciding to teach.

That makes you the absolute authority on STNAs in your classroom. It also means your career experience is always relevant to your students.

Fortunately, this just so happens to be the best way to engage your students.

To your students, your experience in the medical field isn’t just experience — it’s a story.

Each individual story you’ve earned from your time working as a nursing assistant brings them one step closer to fully understanding what the nursing world actually entails.

After all, if it happened to you, it’ll probably happen to them too.

Your experiences can stretch from the time you first stepped foot in a clinic or hospital to the day you decided you wanted to change your career to teaching.

In fact, talking about your decision to teach is valuable information. Once your students know you’ve worked as a nurse, they’ll naturally ask why you stopped to teach instead.

(This is only true if you’ve stopped working as a career nurse or nurse aide. If you only teach part-time, you probably won’t hear that question verbatim.)

Your answer could actually help your students figure out if becoming a nursing assistant is right for them. It could mean they leave your class — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

If someone realizes they don’t want to be a nurse aide as a career, then they shouldn’t be a nurse as a career. Empowering students to discover their passion (or find it somewhere else) is a major part of any STNA class.

With all of that, you’ve got the bare bones of a curriculum in place. You know what’s on the STNA exam, you’ve worked it into your instructional material, and you’re supplementing that information with your personal experience.

But how do you know that you’re teaching students in a way that really helps them learn?

The answer lies in differentiated instruction.

4. Differentiate Classroom Instruction

Differentiated instruction is the process of mixing different teaching strategies into one class so your students can learn in the way that’s best for them.

So if a student is an auditory learner, they’ll do great during the lecture portion of your class.

If a student is a visual learner, they’ll do great with the textbook or activity portions.

And if a student learns best by doing, they’ll excel in the clinical portion of your course.

This is why differentiation is so helpful – it levels the playing field for students of all educational backgrounds.  

It’s important to note that this doesn’t eliminate learning problems from your classroom. You’ll still have students who get lost during lectures and others who just can’t pay attention when studying from a textbook.

However, those students will now have a chance to learn and retain that same information in multiple ways.

As a result, you don’t pile all of your eggs into one teaching basket (so to speak). You diversify your teaching methods to match the diversity of your students.

But at the end of the day, you’re still responsible for prepping your students to pass the STNA exam.

You can teach them the skills and lessons they need to succeed in the workplace, but that (unfortunately) doesn’t always mean they’re ready to pass a test.

To make sure your students are as prepped and ready as possible, they have to practice the test itself! 

5. Practice the Test Itself

Your students can practice the STNA exam in a couple of different ways.

The first way works like a dry run. You collect a few dozen questions that are from the STNA exam (or other versions) and work them into a single assessment.

Then, you grade the assessment as though it were the actual exam.

The results show you which students are ready to take the real test, who’s still on the fence, and who’s lagging in the classroom.

In turn, this empowers you to further differentiate and modify your classroom so you can strike a balance between celebrating your high achievers and helping students who are struggling.

Another way to practice for the STNA exam is to take a similar bank of test questions and use them in a game, like memory.

Games have become a staple of the educational system at every grade level. They may seem juvenile on paper, but they’re proven to be engaging, interesting, and helpful to student retention.

So even if you’re teaching high school seniors, they can still learn from playing a simple matching or memory game! 

But don’t let your creativity stop at these two options. If you have a direction you want to lead your classroom, go for it!

Still, there’s one last step to designing a strong STNA curriculum, and we’ve already talked about it a little bit.

You have to build out some time for remediation.

6. Build in Time for Remediation

Remediation is a key component of any health science curriculum, especially when you’re teaching for exam prep.

While the time you need for remediation will vary depending on your students, teaching strategies, and other factors, you should figure on at least two weeks or so to bring lagging students up to speed. 

That gives you plenty of class time to go over tricky concepts, complicated processes, and more.

You can top off your remediation period by giving students another practice test with different questions (or the same questions in a different order).

Ideally, you’ll see an across-the-board increase in test scores.

That’s what one of the teachers in our community did, and she found great success!


Prep Your Students for the STNA Exam with HealthCenter21


Carla Toles-Anthony is one Ohio health science teacher who found incredible success in prepping her students for the STNA.

Her secret weapon?


Combined with Carla’s outstanding work experience in the field, HealthCenter21 empowers her to differentiate her classroom and meet the needs of students who required remediation.

Her results have been impressive, to say the least.

Want to see how she did it?

Read Carla’s story for yourself!

Read Carla's Story