CNA Career Guide: Education, Salary and Job Requirements
Certified Nursing Assistants are crucial to patient care. Becoming a CNA is one of the quickest ways to start a career in health care.
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Certified nursing assistants (CNA) are trained healthcare professionals. They perform a wide variety of duties, including:
- Turning or repositioning bedridden patients.
- Answering patient call signals, signaling lights, bells, or intercom systems to determine patient needs.
- Feeding patients or assisting patients to eat or drink.
- Measuring and recording food and liquid intake or urinary and fecal output, reporting changes to medical or nursing staff.
- Providing physical support to assist patients to perform daily living activities, such as getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, standing, walking, or exercising.
They are often supervised by a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). CNAs are confused sometimes with LPNs, but LPNs must pass the NCLEX-PN (National Council Licensure Examination-Practical Nurse) and train six more months than CNAs.
Although CNAs can work in hospital settings, they usually work in rehabilitation centers, senior daycare centers, or similar facilities. Certified nursing assistants provide the bulk of the care to residents in nursing homes (80-90%), but with enough expertise, CNAs can take to some of the higher-paying industries, such as hospitals or home health aide agencies.
Becoming a CNA opens the door to many opportunities, and many CNAs with enough experience and education choose to advance to an RN or LPN. Converting to one of these positions means you will have to earn either a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree and pass the NCLEX-PN.
How do you become a CNA? What classes will I need to take?
You won’t need a college degree if you want to become a certified nursing assistant. With that being said, a GED or high school diploma, as well as nurse assistant training, are all requirements you’ll need to meet if you want to be a CNA. These courses can be found at local community colleges, medical facilities, and trade schools. But before jumping into classes at the nearest college, check out their websites, call teachers and do some digging.
Are the courses certified by either the NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accredited Commission), the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) or the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education)? Are they approved by the state’s nursing board? If not, it’s recommended to choose a different, certified school. You may also consider trying out a couple of online certified nursing assistant courses available online.
Upon meeting the training requirements for being a CNA, it’s time to clear the last hurdle; both parts of the CNA certification examination. The first half of the exam is a written one and is usually multiple-choice, whereas the second half of the exam, which is thirty minutes, will be held with a proctor or observer who will evaluate you on four random clinical skills to determine your competency. If you pass the examination and become a CNA you’ll still need to complete at least 48 hours of continuing education to make sure that your skills are up to date.
What exactly will I learn in these CNA certification programs?
Certified nursing assistant programs are held in both online and in-person classes so that prospective CNAs can get some hands-on training. These programs can last anywhere from four to 16 weeks and will be intensive, and you will need to absorb lots of information in a short time.
In these certification programs, CNAs will learn about:
- Anatomy: Anatomy is the study of our body structure.
- Physiology: Physiology is the study of how our body parts function.
- Hygiene: Hygiene is crucial in healthcare, as it can prevent contagious diseases from spreading in crowded environments. Therefore, it’s no surprise that hygiene is taught to CNAs, who may work in a hospital or aged care setting.
How much do CNAs make?
Certified nursing assistants make a mean hourly wage of $14.77 and a mean annual wage of $30,720. When analyzing the mean wage, remember that these figures are what the 50th percentile makes and you may make a lot more or less depending on your expertise and your location. If you manage to make it into the top 10% of CNAs you’ll be earning a steady $40,620.
The top three US states where certified nursing assistants were highly paid were Alaska, New York, and Hawaii, which made $40,320, $38,810, and $37,710 as their median annual wage respectively. In terms of employment, New York and Los Angeles employed the most CNAs.
How do you choose a certified nursing assistant program?
No one CNA program will suit everyone, as we all have different needs. When choosing a certified nursing plan take into consideration :
How much time am I willing to invest in becoming a CNA?
CNA programs are among the shortest it gets when it comes to entering the healthcare workforce. The course itself only takes about four to twelve weeks to complete, depending on how much time you’re willing to invest each day. When choosing a certified nursing assistant program, you might want to select an appropriate length of time to prevent feeling overwhelmed or bored.
How much do CNA programs cost, and do I have the money?
It’s a great idea to figure out your finances before you start your training for a CNA. CNA programs are reasonably cheap compared to other medical courses, but at a price of $1,300 if you’re training at the Red Cross, it certainly isn't spare change. On top of that basic course fee, you might need to purchase additional program supplies and certification examination fees, which may not be covered by the $1,300.
Is the program I want to take certified?
This one goes without saying. You might want to make sure your program is certified by either the NLNAC (National League for Nursing Accredited Commission), the ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing), or the CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education), or you may find yourself putting in a lot of effort for nothing in return.