English for Nursing Assistants

Hello colleagues, There is a huge need for Certified Nursing Assistants in many communities, including mine, and many adult English learners are interested in working in health care. While a CNA job is a entry-level, low-wage job, working as a CNA can be a gateway job to a better job in health care. Some nursing homes will even pay for a CNA's nurse training.

Does your program offer classes to support students to enter CNA training? If so, how is this working?

Some members may be aware of this self-paced online course designed to teach English for Nursing Assistants. Are you using this course in your program or recommending it to learners who are interested in health careers?

If this is the first time to visit this site, please share your thoughts.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


Susan, this is an important issue. I have had students who were nurses in Mexico but could not get a job as a nurse, nursing assistant or Care Giver because they did not know enough English. In my own program, I have lessons on Medical Terminology, but they need a complete course like English for Nursing Assistants. This is a good example of what I call a One Stop Shop approach, and could be part of a website. Actually, employment agencies that specialize in medical jobs would be a good place to contact to work in a partnership. 


Hello Paul and all, I agree that we need partnerships with both employment agencies and employers to support English learners onto career paths such as health care. It would be great to hear from members whose programs have established such partnerships.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP

Good Morning,

I previewed the CNA online course for English Language Learners. I was very impressed with the site and the information. I will incorporate it into my Pre-CNA classes, I currently teach A Vocational English pre-course which focuses on reading for students entering skilled training at Tec Centro, which is a bilingual technical school in Lancaster, PA. We offer several career tracks including medical. Our most popular program is the CNA training. We also have a dental assistant program and a pharmacy assistant program. Other tracks include Culinary Arts, Construction and Manufacturing and Banking. The CNA course is approximately three months long . We start with a week of customer service for all skilled training candidates then the CNA students have five  weeks of Introduction to Healthcare and Medical Terminology  followed by four  weeks of the CNA course which includes a week at a health care facility. After the class we offer one week of job search development followed by one week of intensive job search. Our placement rate is almost 100 percent.

Naomi Levine

Hi Naomi, Thank you for sharing about the training programs at Tec Centro. Could say a bit about the bilingual aspect of your program?

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP


English for the Nursing Assistant, other health-related online English or basic skills courses and curricula, and other work-contextualized English and Basic Skills curricula are listed in the Work Readiness and Work-contextualized Curriculum page of the Literacy List.  If you are aware of online work-contextualized courses or curricula to suggest that I add to this page, please let me know.

David J. Rosen


I've been told about a free app that to support allied health students in learning idioms.  It is freely available through the iTunes store, and was created by two nursing instructors from Georgia Perimeter College, Department of Nursing.  You can learn more about this free app for nursing students to learn idioms here.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator


Hello everyone, this is Donna Price from the San Diego Community College Continuing Education program.  I've been team teaching an I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training) for 7 years with a registered nurse.  The name of the class is VESL for Personal Care Assistants (PCA).  The main goal is that after a semester students are ready to be employed as caregivers--they have the language and skills to do the job.  Many students get jobs and let me know where they are hired so I can keep a list of the agencies who hire them for the graduates in the following semester. The second goal of the VESL PCA class is to prepare students for the CNA program.  As you can imagine, most of the students want to continue on to CNA.  As Susan said, CNA certification opens doors to many other certifications and better jobs.  The students that have gone from our class to CNA programs do well because they've already studied the theory and the RN has prepared them with the skills.  The obstacle to enter almost all the CNA programs in San Diego is the TABE reading test and the 9th grade reading requirement--and the 25 minute timed requirement to complete the test which has 20 questions.  I would like to see a little more flexibility for ESL students--at least give them 10 more minutes to take the test.  In addition, multiple measures should be used, such as the student's background (some of these students were health care providers in their countries), and how well the student does in the VESL class.  Our Health Careers Department has a wonderful advisory group that they meet with once a year.  This group is comprised of representatives from Hospice, home-care agencies, hospitals and schools, and they give an excellent perspective of what our students face as caregivers.  I really recommend anyone starting a pre-CNA program to 1) see what the entrance requirements are to enter CNA programs and prepare students for what is required, and 2) have an advisory committee to see what our students will be facing in the field when they are working and include these things in the curriculum as much as possible.

Thanks, Donna, for sharing your thoughts and your experience teaching English learners who want to work in health care. It's fantastic that you can co-teach your course with a nurse.

Many of us using TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) with English learners who have transitioned out of NRS ESL levels and into NRS ABE levels would agree with you on wishing English learners could have more time to complete the reading portion of TABE.

Members who are interested can learn a bit more about Donna's program in San Diego and see brief videos of Donna and her colleagues, i.e., the nursing instructor and the coordinator of the program, discussing how the Integrated Basic Skills and Educational Training (I-BEST) program is working.

Members, your insights and questions about this approach to preparing English learners for Career Pathways are welcome!

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, AELL CoP



English for English Learners other online English or basic skills courses and curricula, and other work-contextualized English and Basic Skills curricula are the best.  I previewed an online course for English Language Learners. I was very impressed with the site and the information. I will incorporate it into my ESL classes.

Pablo J. Salin

What was challenging for me was defining her varied examples and format. After all i did see alot of different strategies. Pictures, reading, pairing up in groups, drawing pictures etc. Very helpful