What is a CNA?

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an integral part of the healthcare industry. They provide basic care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings. CNAs provide a wide variety of duties throughout the course of their day. Working as a certified nursing assistant is often a stepping stone towards a career in the nursing field. Below is an overview of CNAs, including job description, training requirements and career outlook.

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a trained healthcare professional who provides basic care to patients under the supervision of licensed nurses. They typically work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities but also work in hospitals and clinics. Before the individual has completed the training and passed a certification exam, he or she can work as a nursing assistant or nurse aide. Passing the certification exam earns the credential of certified nursing assistant or CNA. Duties of a CNA may include the following.

  • Taking and documenting vital signs
  • Responding to patient calls
  • Getting supplies for nurses and physicians
  • Bathing and dressing patients
  • Assisting patients in going to bathroom
  • Feeding patients and recording dietary intake
  • Repositioning patients or assisting them in turning over
  • Cleaning and dressing wounds
  • Stock medical supplies
  • Changing bed linens and cleaning patient rooms
  • Preparing rooms for admission and cleaning out after discharge
  • Assisting with certain medical procedures

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

In order to work as a CNA, the individual must complete an accredited training program approved by the state. Training programs may be found at community colleges, vocational schools, in hospitals and through the Red Cross. Interested candidates can also find a list of approved programs through their state’s nursing board.

CNA programs are also found online, but only the coursework can be completed through distance learning. The student will still need to complete the clinical portion at a healthcare facility. Certified nursing assistant programs generally take from four to eight weeks to complete depending on the program. CNA programs don’t generally have many requirements, but students may need to satisfy these requirements.

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Attend CNA orientation session
  • Pass criminal background check
  • Pass health examination and TB screening
  • Be current with immunizations

To successfully complete the CNA program, the candidate must complete both coursework and the number of hours of clinical education required by that state. Once the student has completed all the training requirements, he or she must pass a two-part nursing assistant certification exam. The test consists of a practical exam and a written portion. When both parts are passed, the student’s name will be added to the state’s nurse aide registry.

Career Outlook for Nursing Assistants

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that CNAs should see a job growth of 11 percent during the decade of 2016-2026. Certified nursing assistant wages ranged from $20,040 to $37,900 or more with the annual median wage at $26,590 as of May 2017. Wages can vary from city to city, state to state and even from one employer to another.

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Nursing assistants will always be in demand because they can provide the basic care patients need and free up nursing to do their work and perform duties that CNAs cannot perform. Whether nursing assistants use their job as experience they can use if they wish to advance their training or intend on remaining CNAs, these medical professionals continue to be an asset to the healthcare profession.