Over the next 10 years, the overall employment of nursing assistant positions is expected to rise eight percent. This is double the national average.
With an aging population in the United States, the demand for nurses’ aide roles will only continue to climb.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a fast-paced job. It involves non-invasive responsibilities focusing on the patient’s daily routines. A nursing assistant helps medical professionals with routine tasks including taking vital signs, exercising and cleaning patients, and monitoring dietary restrictions.
Becoming a CNA is a great alternative if you are interested in getting into the medical field but do not want to spend excess time and money in school. For those that want to get a jump-start on helping people and making a difference, this may be the career path for you.
Keep reading to learn more about the role of a CNA and a step-by-step guide to obtaining certification for yourself.
How Do I Become a CNA?
There are a few steps to take before you can call yourself a certified nursing assistant. They can be completed at any stage of life, making this a good opportunity for any age group or experience level.
Step 1: High School Diploma/GED
In order to begin CNA training, you do need a high school diploma or equivalent under your belt. It does not matter what year you completed this prior education in.
If you are still in the process of completing this, there are various classes that may be advantageous to your eventual nurses’ aide program. Examples of these courses include:
- First aid
Try to speak with your school or program’s guidance counselor, if possible, for the best advice on which courses to take ahead of time.
Step 2: Complete a CNA Program
When looking for a CNA education program, be sure to look for a respected nurse aide course.
The actual certification standards will vary by state. But in any location, be sure to select a program that is accredited. This way, you will not have difficulty finding a job post-graduation.
It is usually not difficult to find a course. There are various medical academy settings that churn out these courses multiple times per year, making it possible for any schedule.
You will take a variety of classes during this program that will translate into real-world skills. These could include:
- Basic patient care
- Patient safety
- Emergency medicine
- CPR/other life support
- Checking vital signs
- Moving patients
- Infection control
- Feeding techniques
- Communication with patients and family
- Documentation skills
- Long-term care techniques
- Preventing workplace injury
These courses typically go from four to 12 weeks. If you’d rather, some programs go more in-depth and span up to six months. It’s important to note that both length programs would result in the same amount of credits.
These classes can be taken online or in person. Though, practice in a clinical setting is still required even if completing the courses online.
Step 3: Take the Nursing Assistant Certification Exam
As each state has its own regulations for this industry, each state has its own certification exam a well. You must pass this exam to be considered qualified as a nursing assistant in your state.
This test assesses clinical and practical knowledge, as a culmination of everything you have learned in your CNA program. By testing you on skills you must know to be successful in this field, it proves you are up to the standards of the profession before you enter the workforce.
Some areas that may be on the test include:
- The role of a CNA
- Infection control
- Personal care
- Data collection
- Patient’s rights
- Communication skills
- Disease processes
The test measures theoretical concepts and practical skills in two parts.
The first part is a multiple-choice section. Usually, this is 70 to 75 questions taken over 90 minutes to two hours. Examples of topics covered on this exam could be:
- Using a catheter
- Mobility aids
- Mental illness
- Disease symptoms
After this is a manual skills test, where you perform five tasks to demonstrate competency with various hands-on skills. These skills may be:
- Hand washing
- Bedpan handling
- Denture care
- Patient bathing/grooming
- Interacting with patients
- Mental illness response
Generally speaking, you will need a minimum of 75 hours of classroom and practical experience in a state-approved facility to be eligible for this exam.
Step 4: Certification Application
Again, the exact CNA process will vary based on state law. In most cases, you must complete a certification application to the state nursing board after passing the exam.
There are a few components of this—a background check, transcripts, and an application fee.
After completing all of the above steps, you will now be eligible for employment as a CNA. There are nursing assistant positions in a variety of health care facilities. You may look for a job in a hospital, medical clinic, hospice program, home health agency, or urgent care center.
The actual job responsibilities will range based on the type of environment you work in. Typically, you work under the supervision of the registered nurses on staff.
Every so often, you will have to complete a CNA certification renewal to keeps your skills and knowledge current.
The exact time frame varies by state. But you may have to continue to stay on top of your education and recertify as a nurses’ aide. This usually has a minimum number of work hours associated with it.
If you move states and want to continue working as a nursing assistant, you must transfer your certification. This is not difficult, and you usually do not have to re-take the course or exam.
If you plan to practice in a new state, you must first apply to begin the certification transfer process. This will include supporting materials: proof of education, proof of employment history, copies of current CNA license, drivers’ license, and social security card.
You must also alert the nursing board of your current state that you are no longer practicing in that area.
Investing in Your Future
If you are looking to get a jump start into the medical field, consider becoming a CNA.
Keep in mind your education is an investment in your future. Though there are a few steps and a minor time commitment involved, this can lead you down the path of a very rewarding career.
Check out our other articles for more career and education advice!