Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
It can take as little as six to twelve weeks to get certified as a CNA.
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are required to complete state approved programs or vocational training accredited or approved by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, or medical facilities and usually are 3-12 weeks long. Training includes book work and clinical experience that focuses on proper ergonomics, positioning, basic care, vital signs, CPR, and first aid. In addition to attending school you must get certified and pass a criminal background.
Certifications vary from state to state, however most require you to pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) competency exam that consist of a written and clinical stimulation portion where you must demonstrate mastery of taught skills.
According to the NCSBN, once you pass this exam, you are listed in the state registry. This assures employers that you have met the federal and state requirements to practice as a CNA in the state you reside in. Therefore, it may be beneficial to ask the CNA program you are applying to and what their pass rate is. The higher the rate the better your odds will be in passing the NNAAP exam.
Job Description of a CNA
Nursing Assistants play an important role in the medical field. They primarily provide care to the chronically ill, disabled, and elderly with activities of daily living. They have the tasks of cleaning and bathing a patient or helping them dress or use the toilet. They need to lift and turn patients and help them get in and out of bed or a wheelchair. They assist patients with eating and can take vital signs like blood pressure or temperature. This care can sometimes be 24 hours around the clock and last months or years pending on the patient’s stay or needs.
A nursing assistant (CNA) should have good communication skills. They should be compassionate and patient to those under their care. They require a great deal of physical stamina as lifting patients may cause injury and standing long hours on their feet may be demanding.
In 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41% of CNA’s worked in Skilled Nursing facilities followed by hospitals at 25%. Employment hours vary and many times can include weekends, holidays, and evenings. CNA’s are supervised or usually work under a Licensed Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse.
CNA’s are considered at the lowest level in the nursing career pyramid, therefore some individuals use this certification as a stepping stone to start their dream of becoming a nurse. There are many programs that offer bridge programs that allow CNA’s to transition to become a LPN. These programs may or may not take your CNA experience and certification into consideration when applying. However, this experience can be invaluable and teach you empathy towards your patients.
LPN bridge programs advance your skills. According to the Practical Nursing, you are taught how to administer medications, care for wounds, and learn more complex assessments. In addition, as a LPN you will take more responsibility and may be leading CNA’s therefore, you will also gain knowledge in critical thinking and problem solving skills.