Health & Wellness

New USU CNA Program Targets Nursing Shortages in the Four Corners Region

By Ysabel Nehring |

A USU medical assistant student practices a procedure with a dummy.

Blanding, Utah — Following the success of a hybrid certified nursing assistant program created for the Utah Nursing Assistant Registry (UNAR) and Utah Department of Health, Utah State University has developed an industry-based program to help address CNA shortages in Southwestern Utah and the Arizona Strip area of the Navajo Nation.

“Home health agencies’ approach to this crisis has been to hire family members to care for their aging parents and grandparents,” said Michele Lyman, director of health professions at Utah State University’s Blanding campus. “Now these agencies would like to have these people trained and certified as CNAs, which means more coverage for areas of need and higher pay for caregivers who complete certification.”

In addition to caring for aging family members, people can be employed by home health agencies as nursing assistants to care for family members with disabilities. Working with UNAR, USU developed a six-week industry-based CNA course for family member caregivers as well as for uncertified nursing assistants. The program began in August and offers open enrollment.

Nationwide there is an extreme shortage of CNAs, a situation intensified by the COVID pandemic. In some areas, the National Guard has stepped in to temporarily relieve the strain. Utah and the Navajo Nation are not exceptions, with many more patients enrolled for needed care than there are nurses to care for them.

The program teaches a condensed version of the curriculum in the 16-week CNA certificate of proficiency program at USU. The courses are intended to prepare participants for the UNAR state exam and enrollment is limited to individuals already employed in the industry as nursing assistants, which includes people being paid as family caregivers.

The six-week course at the Blanding campus partners with agencies including the Navajo Nation Office of Self-Reliance, Utah Division of Workforce Services, home health agencies, and long-term care facilities to certify staff members. It is also open to people who began doing the work of CNAs — but without certification — at the peaks of the COVID pandemic.

Funding for the program is offered through Custom Fit, a state-run program that offers up to 50% coverage of training costs for careers in specific industries. Lyman said the combination of project funding and Custom Fit support means students in the program do not pay tuition, fees, or costs for books, uniforms or other materials needed in their training.

“USU is well known in the state for delivering innovative teaching models as well as meeting the demands of industry in creative ways,” Lyman said. “We are excited to implement this new industry-based program and address the needs of the community in this region.”

Lyman said the program is enrolling students for future course start dates. The next course begins Oct. 10 and is filling fast. The next start date is Jan. 23, 2023. Students in the program are in class two days per week, eight hours each day, for six weeks. Lyman said the program can also help arrange temporary housing for students who do not live in or near Blanding.

To learn more about the program and how to enroll, contact Lyman at, 435-678-8131, or Teryn Lyman, CNA program advisor,, 435-678-8202.

Michele Lyman


Ysabel Nehring


Michele Lyman
USU Blanding Health Professions

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