Merced College’s Certified Nurse Assistant program has a huge impact on the community according to Elisa Reid.

The Merced College professor said most people just don’t realize it, because it’s often used as a stepping-stone in people’s career paths. The program, which can be completed in a single semester at the Merced and Los Banos campuses, is a low-risk way for students to gauge how much they genuinely want a career in healthcare.

“I’ve been teaching for 24 years and I’ve had a lot of successes,” Reid said. “Most of the students that come here are on their journey to do something in a higher level of education. Many become LVNs or RNs, several right here at Merced College.

“Our program is very popular for a number of reasons. If you do a regular semester, it’s just 18 weeks, which a lot of people like. And if you’re someone that’s considering being an LVN or an RN, you learn quickly whether that’s the right career for you.”

Sixty students are admitted into the Merced campus CNA program each semester. The only requirements are that students must attend an orientation meeting, which are held throughout the school year, the passing of a physical, a TB test and be CPR certified.

This course teaches basic nursing skills required of nursing assistants employed at skilled nursing facilities and extended care facilities. The course emphasizes care of the older adult client, assistance with the activities of daily living, bathing, dressing, exercise movement, eating, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and rehabilitation techniques.

Reid said the other major appeal of the program is schedule flexibility. Students attend theory lectures for about four hours, one night a week, and then learn skills in the lab one day a week. Starting around the fourth week of the program, those skills begin to get put to the test at partnered facilities. 

“It’s a pretty good schedule,” Reid said. “You only have to go to school one full day for clinical and one evening for four hours. It allows students to keep their full-time job and still go to school.”

College students aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the program. Reid said Merced College has established partnerships with Delhi, Le Grand, Livingston and Atwater High Schools. The class is open to juniors and seniors, creating immediate employment opportunities upon the students finishing high school.    

Whether it’s at the high school or college campuses, CNA students learn bedside care and how to assess a patient.

“We teach them things like bed baths, showering, changing and repositioning,” Reid said. “They also learn how to take vital signs and how to monitor a patient’s change of condition.

“CNAs are usually the eyes and ears for a charge nurse in long-term care facilities, because a charge nurse there has 35 patients. They can’t always be in the room, but the CNAs are in the rooms and taking care of those patients. They know them very well.”

Reid said the comprehensive program culminates with students taking the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam, which tests both their knowledge and skills.

For more information on the Merced College CNA program, visit