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A Hybrid Certified Nursing Assistant Course Charts New Territory

Howard Community College to Offer Maryland’s First Hybrid CNA Course This Spring
a cna student working with a high-fidelity health care model.

Columbia, MD – Eager to meet demand and expand pathways leading to health care careers, Howard Community College (HCC) plans to offer Maryland’s first hybrid Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) course in the spring of 2017.

The new blended CNA course, which prepares students to provide a variety of crucial services—from taking vital signs to monitoring patient treatment plans—leverages the most effective elements of online learning and face-to-face teaching. It also benefits from the success of HCC’s first hybrid health offering, the Advanced Patient Care Technician (PCT) course.

Howard Community College’s Innovative Approach

When Howard Community College’s noncredit Nursing and Allied Health Program offered its first hybrid PCT course, the demand was clear: enrollment doubled and a wait list formed.

For busy students like Genesis Ramirez, hybrid courses can be an essential part of the roadmap to a dream career. Ramirez initially struggled to balance work and college courses. After she took Howard Community College’s in-person CNA course, she decided to try the hybrid PCT course.

At the time, Ramirez was working in a gym, participating in clinicals (a requirement of the CNA program), and taking the new course. She credits the hybrid format—a combination of online lessons and in-class demonstrations—for making her balancing act possible. She could work online at home and during breaks at work, as well as save on transportation. “It was hard, but I kept up with everything,” said Ramirez proudly.

The result? She now has her CNA license from the Maryland Board of Nursing, her Advanced Patient Care Technician certificate, and a 10-week paid intensive SOARING Internship at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Ramirez works in the Cardiovascular Progressive Care Unit assisting lung and heart transplant patients. Upon successful completion of the internship, she will start a permanent job with Hopkins as a clinical technician.

“I wouldn’t have been hired by Hopkins without the courses at Howard Community College,” says Ramirez. She credits the hybrid format for making the balancing of work and college more manageable; she also notes that she’s not done. “I will continue to take courses towards a nursing degree; I know this is the path for me.”

The Need for Certified Nursing Assistants and Other Health Care Professions

There is certainly high demand for a variety of health care workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for nursing assistants is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Those using the CNA as a path to other healthcare fields are also well positioned: employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 16 percent and physician assistants by 30 percent in the same ten year period.

“Employers and communities are actively seeking well-trained health care workers and we believe innovative models like our hybrid CNA course come at a crucial time,” notes Dr. Kate Hetherington, HCC president. “The flexibility of the hybrid model is an asset for busy students, and the stamp of approval we received from the Maryland Board of Nursing makes it clear our students will be highly prepared.”

What Students Can Expect From The New Hybrid CNA Course

Advancements in technology have led to even more opportunities for student engagement and simulated role-playing. Hybrid courses provide flexibility, offer a competitive academic program, strengthen technological skills required in modern healthcare settings, and enhance time management and self-direction.

The six-week hybrid CNA course is scheduled to begin spring of 2017. Each week, students can expect a 10–15 hour online module and a 4–6 hour hands-on class session. A 45-hour clinical rotation at a professional location is also required. Students who successfully complete the course requirements receive a CNA license from the Board of Nursing.

Potential Paths For Students Taking the New Hybrid CNA Course

Jennifer Bukowitz Keller, the director of HCC’s Continuing Education Nursing and Allied Health Program, believes many students will use the CNA course as a launch pad to other health careers. “Our students learn so much from working. Their experience as certified nursing assistants helps prepare them to study in a variety of health care fields.”

Some students may choose to use their new CNA license to go directly to full-time work; others, like Genesis Ramirez, see it as a first crucial step in their health care career path.

Students may take the hybrid CNA or PCT course for another reason: it helps bolster their applications to master’s degree programs like Physician’s Assistant (PA) school.

In one noncredit hybrid health course at Howard Community College, 15 out of 26 students planned to apply to a PA program, which typically requires 1,500 hours of patient contact prior to admission. Potential PA students may obtain these hours through their work as certified nursing assistants. (Such a path is suited to individuals who already have academic credentials; for example, 36 percent of students held bachelor’s degrees in one recent HCC noncredit health course.)

Whether used as an entry to a lifelong career or a first step towards a nursing or PA job, the new hybrid CNA course is a welcome addition for students eager for high quality, flexible course options.

For more information on HCC’s new hybrid CNA course, please contact Jennifer Bukowitz Keller at JBukowitzKeller@howardcc.edu or 443-518-4967.

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