At Signature Healthcare, the Louisville-based provider of long-term nursing care, management famously became the first executives in the nation to become CNA certified in 2011.

The role of certified nursing assistants is vital to a company like Signature, which has nearly 24,000 employees in 11 states. The goal was to “promote understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by front-line workers,” the company said.

But during the Louisville Innovation Summit on Monday, Signature Chief Learning Officer Dr. Mary McNevin recalled that when she became certified, she faced the daunting task of completing a dry, 50-hour course. The e-learning module was essentially just reading material and charts, with no context, she said. “This was big problem — not just for Signature.”

Enter Joanna Schneier and Jonathan Dariyanani, co-founders of Cognotion, a Louisville-based learning company, which designed a digital training program that addresses the “emotional state of the learner,” as Dariyanani described it.

The innovative and interactive course (think soap opera) is called ReadyCNA, and it “creates a dynamic, immersive learning experience by combining engaging cinema with games, case studies, real-life simulations, and commentary by subject matter experts, all while teaching, and reinforcing, the best practices in medical care.”

The cutting-edge certification program can be taken at home or at work, and includes a laboratory program and a 16-hour residency. What’s more, ReadyCNA has enlisted the help of IBM Watson to power a help desk.

Signature is employing ReadyCNA in Kentucky and Tennessee, and is working on Florida and Indiana, McNevin said. It will obtain permission state by state to add it for all its stakeholders.

During the panel, Dariyanai played video examples of the training, which had the look and feel of a reality television program, with dialogue, narration and music. Cognotion’s videos were shot in Louisville at Signature’s facility in Cherokee Park, and produced in its New York office.

The videos emphasized the power of a story. In one clip, we meet Frank, a patient who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For a while, he is healthy and vibrant, but over time, he becomes sick. In “Do Not Resuscitate,” the clip shows what happens when he stops breathing and the machine alarms go off. “When Frank goes, we cannot resuscitate him,” the actor playing a CNA says. “That’s his choice, we must respect it.”

According to McNevin, the story helps the learner in ways a text-based course cannot. “I was reading a dry textbook without context, but with this story — you’ve fallen in love with Frank, who has COPD.”

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Mickey Meece
Mickey Meece is a native of Louisville, a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked at The New York Times for 13 years in various capacities on the business and features desk, including assistant to the editor, small business editor, weekend editor and staff editor. Mickey served as executive editor of USAA Magazine, the Money magazine for military families, and was an editor for the American Banker newspaper, where she reported on the credit card industry.