NextStep's National COVID-Ready Caregiver Certification Course

Creation of a new course in response to the lack of content targeting COVID preparation for caregivers — professional and non-professional alike.


In March 2020, we were watching as an outbreak of COVID-19 swept through a local long-term care facility in Seattle claiming 37 lives. Poor access to training, strenuous staffing ratios, and lack of essential PPE was leading to dangerous levels of transmission in long-term care facilities. CNAs were getting sick, and they were scared of bringing this unknown new virus home to their families. NextStep recognized the immediate need for transparent and readily accessible training, and a decision was made to develop and launch a COVID-19 preparedness course for professional and family caregivers. In partnership with Leading Age and the National Domestic Worker's Alliance the National COVID-Ready Caregiver Certification was launched. Over the next 16 months over 32k students signed up for the course at a completion & certification rate of 75%.

My Role

The pandemic intensified an already severe shortage of CNAs, as design director, I needed to ensure the primary NextStep CNA course continued to strengthen and meet the needs of our learners, while we developed a secondary universally accessible course. I met with the founders of nextstep to plan how we could accomplish this task. No engineering resources were available to build the course, it needed to integrate existing skills with newly built lessons, and it needed to be complete in 3 weeks.

"Easily accessible and reliable information in the fight against coronavirus is crucial to ensuring the safety and well-being of staff and the older adults they serve. This program is a timely and welcome resource for caregivers."

— Katie Smith Sloan, President and CEO of LeadingAge

Understanding Our Audience

Caregivers and Employers needed help

Caregivers run the gamut from folks employed by huge national firms with massive training budgets, to an individual on their own caring for a disabled family member. These caregivers were desperate to know how to protect themselves, their patients, and their families, from anything they may be exposed to. They all were looking to learn from someone they could trust.

Employers were watching what was happening at LTC facilities around the country and the total lack of specific training they could send their employees. They needed a way to access "bulk seats" for training they could send to their employees.

Finding trusted voices

As the pandemic became recklessly politicized and misinformation undermined safety, it was vital for us to partner with folks with not only a high level of expertise, but that also engendered trust. Dr. Vin Gupta, MD, MPA, a critical care pulmonologist, and health policy expert to explain what was known about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease called COVID-19. Melissa Mills, NextStep's Director of Lab and Clinical Ops, provided the direct patient care perspective. The strain on caregiver mental health was especially important to acknowledge, and we were able to have Lynn Morrison, MA, CHT provide guided meditations for times of general and acute stress.

Dr. Vin Gupta, MD, MPH
Melissa Mills, MHA, BSN, RN
Lynn Morrison, MA, CHT
Building the Course

While the videos were being produced, I began to build out the course delivery platform. I leveraged a third party LMS platform, used webflow as an HTML generator to do the custom landing pages, and integrated a group sales platform to build the course foundations.

Initially all course content would be available free for the first month, then we would start charging for access so the structure had to be in place for free and paid access.

Delivering an Effective Certification Course

Enabling individual and employer access

The main landing page for the course funneled our two audiences to the right paths. Individuals could log in or sign up for the course and employers were able to obtain seats for their staff. All were able to preview the course and see the sponsoring partners.

Over 20k folks signed up for the course within the first month of launching.

Remote recording to protect all involved

This course mixed content created previously with recordings done over zoom, leading to significant variability in quality. This was spun into a positive experience to emphasize NextStep took social distancing seriously with a unobtrusive call out on all new videos produced.

COVID-19 education counting towards CEUs

Many professional caregivers need to complete a number of continuing education units (CEUs) to keep their licenses active. An important part of making the National COVID-Ready Caregiver Certification was to get it accepted as valid CEUs. This would enable more employers to assign it to their employees, increasing it's availability and utilization.

Words of Encouragement

Overtime, folks who completed the COVID-Ready certification course started sending in words of encouragement to their fellow caregivers. I built a showcase for those messages on our log in page for folks to return to if needed.

A successful launch led to an additional course:
The National Temporary Nurse Aide Certification

After the successful launch of the National COVID-Ready Caregiver Certification course, the team identified another opportunity. Under the federal emergency order due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid waved many of the training requirements placed on CNAs before they can provide direct patient care. These new workers would be classified as "Temporary Nurse Aides" and there was only one 8 hour flash animation training.

We decided as a team that we could provide a more comprehensive and engaging course by combining the newly build National COVID-Ready Caregiver Certification course with additional essential CNA skills to give confidence to these brave folks who would be joining the healthcare workforce in the midst of this devastating global pandemic.

In all we certified 856 new Temporary Nurse Aides working in facilities across the country.