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Kirkwood CNA program offers a flexible path to a rewarding career

Kirkwood CNA program offers a flexible path to a rewarding career
Kirkwood Community College’s CNA program, whether hybrid or traditional, runs between four and 10 weeks depending on the format of class frequency. (Adobe Stock image)

When Bethany Finnegan graduated from Williamsburg High School in 2019, she wasn’t sure what career path she would choose, but a career in health care had always been in the back of her mind.

“I know that this is an in-demand job,” Finnegan said. “I also like that I would be able to grow in this position in the future.”

Several of Finnegan’s friends had completed the CNA program at Kirkwood Community College. After learning more about the program’s optional hybrid model, which allows for a blend of face-to-face and online courses, and GAP Tuition Assistance, Finnegan decided to take the leap and begin her program in 2022.

“The GAP Tuition Assistance was really the final piece that pushed me,” she said. “It has helped me pay for everything from my tuition to books, even my scrubs.”

According to Kirkwood, GAP Tuition Assistance is a needs-based program for approved short-term continuing education training programs for in-demand occupations.

Since non-credit programs are not eligible for federal financial aid, GAP Tuition Assistance is designed to bridge the funding gap for individuals that meet program and income guidelines to complete short-term training programs.

The Kirkwood Pathways for Academic Career Education and Employment (KPACE) has a similar mission and offers customized support services to enable eligible students to acquire effective academic and employment training to secure gainful, quality, in-state employment.

Students enrolled in programs within health care, information technology and manufacturing may be eligible for financial assistance and career navigation support.

According to Kirkwood, these two assistance programs, GAP and KPACE, cover the costs of most students going into CNA programs at the college.

Kirkwood also offers the Patient Care Academy, which are collections of courses focused around specific careers or areas of interest, geared toward high school juniors and seniors.

Credits earned in academy courses count toward a student's high school diploma and their future college degree, and are easily transferred to colleges and universities across the country. Career Academies are offered at local high schools and at Kirkwood Regional Centers.

The Patient Care Academy is a unique, hands-on learning experience providing care for patients in a clinical setting. Students work side-by-side with health care professionals in a health care facility and fulfill prerequisites for many college health programs.

“Hands-on experience” is what Finnegan is most looking forward to as she continues her journey in the hybrid CNA program.

“I’m really looking forward to my clinicals,” she said. “This hybrid model is great because I can still work full-time, complete my courses online and do my clinicals on the weekends.”

Even as a full-time classroom assistant at Prairie Early Elementary, Finnegan will complete Kirkwood’s CNA program in just two short months. She will graduate in April as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

The program, whether hybrid or traditional, runs between four and 10 weeks depending on the format of class frequency.

Once she is a CNA, Finnegan will be able to begin her career. She might run into other Kirkwood alumni along the way: program graduates have been hired at Cottage Grove Place, Meth-Wick and West Ridge in Cedar Rapids; Lantern Park in Coralville; Oaknoll in Iowa City; Pleasantview in Kalona; and Virginia Gay Nursing & Rehab in Vinton.

“I know that it will be emotionally rewarding,” Finnegan said. “I’m excited to go to work and improve the lives of other people.”

If you are interested in beginning your journey on the CNA path, register online at, or call for more information at (319) 398-1022.