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New Testing Site and Course to Enhance Job Readiness for Nurse Assistants

Submitted by on January 25, 2023 – 7:56 pm

Lawrence, MA (January 18, 2023)– Northern Essex Community College continues work to address the growing job needs of the healthcare industry with two new offerings for Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA). Students preparing to take the Massachusetts CNA exam can now take a refresher course at NECC, and when they’re ready, they can take the skills-based state exam right on the Lawrence Campus.

“CNAs are in high demand in our community, and ensuring we are doing our part in educating, supporting, and contributing to the growth of our CNA community is a top priority,” says Program Coordinator Heather Waniga, RN.

The CNA Lab in the Dimitry Building is a new state exam testing site.

The CNA Lab in the Dimitry Building is a new state exam testing site.

The Certified Nurse Assistant program at Northern Essex is a four-week accelerated training. It prepares students to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including long-term care, acute care, and rehabilitation facilities, as well as home care settings. Students can begin working as nurse assistants immediately after completing their CNA training; however, many employers require state certification as a term of employment.  This month, the CNA laboratory in the Dimitry Building became a certified testing site, increasing accessibility for Northern Essex students by giving them more options on when and how to take the exam.

“Students had limited options for local test sites, and they had difficulty accessing dates and times that worked for them,” says Suzzette Turnbull, Ph.D., program manager for Community Education. “By opening this new site, we can bring them full circle in their career journey.” The goal of each testing session is to accommodate 14 students. Northern Essex students get priority for scheduling in each session; the remaining seats are open to students from other programs.

“We are proud to have our facility open to students in the community who can take the exam in an organized and student-centered environment,” Waniga points out.

Northern Essex also offers a CNA refresher course for students who may have completed their program but want to brush up on their skills before attempting the test. The first two sessions ran in the fall, with more scheduled this spring.

The CNA program, the refresher course, and the testing are all free to students, thanks to grant and state funding. Testing takes place twice a month at the new site in Lawrence, with refresher courses scheduled every other month. Students who complete the program and pass the Massachusetts CNA exam may also earn six credits applicable toward the NECC Healthcare Technician Certificate Program.

Enrollment is open for the four-week CNA training program in March, April, May, and June.

For more information, visit the webpage or contact Program Coordinator Heather Waniga, RN, by calling 603-489-8907 or emailing To learn more about job-ready certifications and trainings available at Northern Essex, contact