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Minnesota Needs Nursing Assistants: Filling the Gap with Online Training

Nursing assistant training class meets online

At a time when much of the world has come to a halt, three new groups of Nursing Assistant Training students started class on April 6, and at least five past students have been hired in health care roles since the COVID-19 crisis hit. Our health care and senior living facilities are desperate for help, and the International Institute of Minnesota has New American students and graduates who are eager to serve. 

Laying the Groundwork

Being a nursing assistant is a high-contact, hands-on caregiving role, so naturally there are elements of the job training that do not transfer easily to online learning platforms. Therefore, for our newest sessions, our team is focusing first on teaching online content from an English language learner lens — thoroughly covering nursing assistant vocabulary and ensuring students grasp the language elements pertinent to this role.

We anticipate that preparing our students in this way will help us guide them more efficiently through the in-person training with our nurses where they will learn and practice hands-on skills. We are expecting that all 27 current students plus past students who have not graduated will join us at the Institute once it is safe to gather again.

Through an internal class website, video chats, virtual breakout rooms, Google Forms, Quizlet and other digital tools, our staff is crafting innovative ways to reach new, past and future students. With varying levels of digital literacy, troubleshooting is an inevitable part of the process — just as it has been for those who are working from home for the first time or for kids who are adapting to distance learning. These online interactions have also given us a chance to connect nursing assistant students to other Institute resources, like census outreach, unemployment insurance, College Readiness Academy and English conversation practice. (See COVID-19 updates)

Supporting Past Nursing Assistant Students

Because of the COVID-19 shutdown just a week before graduation, unfortunately two of our nursing assistant training groups could not complete their certifications. To keep these students engaged, we are sharing educational resources, encouraging reviews of materials, and providing opportunities to connect with classmates, including through a virtual “social hour.” 

In the interim, some of our students have been able to secure positions in health care that do not require the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) credential. For those that were able to achieve certification, we continue to offer CNA job placement support and connect our students to employment partners in the Twin Cities.

Looking Ahead

Despite the “steep learning curve for everyone involved,” our staff and students are excited about the potential of offering digital elements of our classes in the future, says Program Manager Julie Garner-Pringle. “It has been a huge silver lining; we’re excited to keep offering hybrid versions.”

Meanwhile, as we navigate this new terrain, “students are happy to continue learning and happy to have the option. Some are asking for even more class time and more homework — they’re loving it.”

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