DOH approves NextStep’s digital certified nursing assistant training program

NextStep, a digital health care training company, announced last week that the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has approved its certified nursing assistant (CNA) training program.



The CNA program offers a combination of app-based digital training along with in-person labs and clinical experience to prepare students for the CNA exam. NextStep CEO Chris Hedrick says the goal of the company is to offer an alternative to the traditional model of CNA training.

“America is facing a caregiving crisis. There aren’t nearly enough people to take care of a rapidly aging population. If you talk to folks in skilled nursing facilities or assisted living, they’ll say that their single biggest business challenge is finding enough people with the skills to provide that frontline health care workforce.

The most important job role in that is the certified nursing assistant…It’s the one with the biggest gap between supply and demand. So, what we’re trying to do at NextStep is to dramatically increase the size of the pipeline of certified nursing assistants through a very different approach than the market has seen up to this point.”

Hedrick says traditional CNA training can cost about $1,000-$1,200 in Washington state, and most of them are in person. He describes it as a “highly fragmented industry” where the quality of training is uneven and many don’t have a strong connection to the workforce.

“What we’ve done is create a program that’s exactly the opposite of that.”

Hedrick says the online training portion, which accounts for about 80% of the curriculum, includes an array of different virtual skills. The digital trainings can range from 10-15 minutes with the goal of ensuring flexibility for students. In Colorado, where NextStep launched last year, the program includes 108 skills approved by the Colorado Board of Nursing.

It usually takes a few months for students to complete the program to prepare for the CNA exam depending on how quickly they can move through the online portion.

NextStep’s employer partners pay a placement fee for each certified CNA provided by the program. As a result, the program is tuition-free. NextStep also guarantees jobs for its graduates with one of its employer partners after certification.

“It kind of turns the financial model of adult education on its head: nobody’s asked to take out a student loan and the employer who benefits, who has this big business problem, gets people with the right skills when they need them.”

Hedrick says the Colorado program has partnered with over 70 long-term care providers around the state for job placements.

Hedrick also notes that in Colorado, 42% of program graduates were unemployed before starting the program and 70% were either on Medicaid or had no health insurance at all.

“So now we’re putting them into jobs that pay significantly more than minimum wage with opportunities for career advancement and with benefits.”

Along with DOH approval, NextStep announced last week its partnership with Avamere – a group of companies that operate about 15 post-acute care and senior living facilities across Washington. NextStep is in the process of connecting with additional employer partners across the state, primarily focused on long term care.

The company is recruiting students for the Washington State program at