Opening a Nurse Aide Program
I have taught Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) classes in nursing homes and at community colleges. In my 14 years of being a nurse aide instructor, I have always taught for someone else. I have often thought about opening a school of my own, but I really love working at the college and worry about the risk of leaving such a secure job.
Recently, a co-worker opened a nurse aide program in my area. Though it affected enrollment in my program, I couldn’t help but be in awe of how brave she was and how well she was doing. After talking to her, I found out she was also surprised and relived with how well she was doing in such a short amount of time.
So is it feasible for anyone to open their own school? What do you need to know to do it?
Opening a Nurse Aide program may be easier, or harder, than you think.
It’s going to take a lot of hard work and some start-up money. The following is a list of considerations before delving in. It’s not an inclusive list, but enough to really get you thinking about whether or not you’re ready for such a huge undertaking.
- Classroom Space– You need a place to hold classes. You also need that place to be big enough to hold all of the Board of Nursing (BON) required equipment. I have seen HUGE spaces with 10+ beds, but I have seen classrooms that are the size of 2 living rooms and have only have 2 beds be just as effective.
Clinical Sites– It’s important to have a place to take students for their clinicals that is BON approved. Each state will have a list of these.
- Instructors– The Program Director needs to be a Registered Nurse (RN) but not every employee working with students needs this credential. Most states allow Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN’s) and even CNA’s to assist with certain parts of the course. There are also staff:student ratios to consider when hiring staff and BON requirements on previous work experience.
- A Plan– The BON will ask specific questions about your plan. You should get a copy of these questions, in advance, to help write your plan. The questions are all reasonable and legitimate to what you will be looking to accomplish. Here is an example.
- Curriculum– This will be part of your plan but also requires a lot of work balancing classroom/lab/clinical time covering all of the BON requirements.
- Marketing– This may be one of the hardest and most important parts. The Business Journal has a great article listing 8 easy ways to promote your small business for free. I’m not sure that they are all easy, but I’ve tried most and they work. Another excellent resource can be found on Businessknowhow.com
- Accessibility– Classes need to be affordable and accessible. Offer classes at times that are convenient for your potential nurse aide students. Evenings, weekends and fast track courses are popular options and may not be offered by your competition.
- Be the best! – Know your competition and be better. Become an expert at what you do. You want a good reputation in the community and you want your graduates to tell everyone how much they learned and how prepared they feel when they graduate from your nurse aide program.
- Ask for advice– Talk to other independent programs around you. Maybe not your direct competition, but businesses that are far enough away that you won’t be affecting their enrollment by opening a school. Typically, small business owners are very generous in sharing experiences and ideas that could be very useful.
- Tap in to your motivation– Hang in there! Starting any business is hard work and takes time to grow, especially if it’s your first business. When my sister and I started Occupational Training Solutions, we had no idea how hard it would be. We believed that what we were doing would benefit the care that people receive and this was our motivation. It still keeps us going today.
Do you have what it takes?
Circling back to my ex-coworker, she works hard and her program is good. She offers quality education at convenient times for a reasonable price. She works weekends and evenings and I can tell that her heart and soul are a part of what she does which is why she has been success with her nurse aide program. It takes much more than a classroom and some equipment to start up a new nurse aide program. Do you have what it takes?
For more information about how we started OTS, visit our about page.