There is a need to provide adequate hands-on healthcare to patients in a variety of healthcare settings. While nurses are responsible for providing this care, they may not have enough manpower for the tasks. Now, this is where certified nursing assistants (CNA) come in handy.
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) help patients with activities of daily living as well as other healthcare needs. They discharge these duties under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). In the United States, CNAs are commonly known as Nursing Assistants, Patient Care Assistants (PCA), or Nurse’s Aid.
Many CNAs are already pursuing a degree in nursing school. They use the CNA job as an opportunity to learn about the healthcare world and gain real-world experience in the field. On the other hand, other CNAs enter the career so as to figure out if they desire to move to the next step in their healthcare journey.
Becoming a CNA is a big opportunity to enter the nursing field without having to spend years earning a nursing degree. You may choose to gain a CNA certification and start working in order to gain relevant work experience. This is an ideal path to kickstart your nursing career.
Do you wish to know more about CNAs? If yes, then this guide will give you information on the duties of CNAs, how to become a CNA, and the salary as well as the job outlook of CNAs.
Who is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are healthcare professionals who provide direct care and support to patients and residents in hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings.
These healthcare professionals are an important part of a healthcare team that includes doctors, nurses, and physical therapists. CNAs help patients with a wide range of basic needs including bathing, eating, grooming, mobility, etc.
They discharge their duties under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Certified Nursing Assistants are the backbone of health care. This is because they assist with almost everything that a patient needs. In addition, they spend more time with patients than any other health care team members.
What does a Certified Nursing Assistant do?
Nursing assistants carry out many duties and as such, there is so much more to the job than you may think. CNAs work closely with patients round the clock to help them with direct needs. While they are helping the patients, they are also observing them.
By observing their patients, nursing assistants are always the first people to notice any little changes to their patients. They work under the direction and supervision of RNs or LPNs.
Generally, the duties of CNAs include:
- Gathering medical supplies for the registered nurse (RN) or medical doctor.
- Bathing and turning patients.
- Answering patient calls.
- Grooming patients by brushing their teeth, combing & shaving their hair, caring for nails, etc.
- Obtaining vital signs per protocol including blood pressure and heart rate.
- Helping with some medical procedures.
- Cleaning rooms and bed linens as well as preparing rooms for admissions.
- Dressing wounds and transporting patients.
- Stocking supplies.
- Feeding patients and documenting their food and liquid intake
The duties of nursing assistants vary depending on the hospital and the nurses’ level of need. Each state determines the responsibilities of a CNA. Therefore, nursing assistants should make sure they follow state guidelines and not perform duties outside their jurisdiction.
Nursing assistants work mainly in long-term residential facilities, rehabilitation centers, and adult day-care centers. They can also work in an inpatient hospital. It is usually rare to find CNAs working in an outpatient office or clinic setting.
How To Become A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Unlike other careers in the health care field, CNAs are not required to possess a college/university degree. While training is necessary to enter the profession, it results in a postsecondary non-degree certificate or diploma.
Each state issues its own CNA certifications, hence aspiring CNAs have to enroll in a state-organized training program and pass the state certification exam. It takes less than a year to become a certified nursing assistant.
Below are the necessary steps to take in becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA):
1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED
A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for entering the CNA training program in many states. You can enroll in a CNA program if you have a high school diploma or GED.
If you do not possess a high school diploma or GED, you will have to complete high school or earn GED before enrolling for CNA classes.
2. Complete a State-Approved CNA Training Program
State training for nursing assistants usually comprises traditional classroom and immersive clinical training. The coursework for the CNA training includes physiology, pharmacology, human anatomy, human physiology, nutrition & dietary health, and infection control.
You will also take several assessments to evaluate your knowledge and skills in the field.
The duration of CNA training programs varies from one state to another. In addition, the duration of training varies depending on the program that you choose. Generally, most CNA programs require a minimum of 75 hours of classroom teaching as well as time spent overshadowing an experienced nurse.
The training will make you acquire the hands-on experience necessary to interact with doctors and nurses as well as to administer patient care.
3. Engage in clinical training
Federal regulations stipulate that all CNA training programs have a minimum of 16 hours of hands-on clinical training. However, many states have additional requirements for this.
Upon successful completion of the CNA training program, go on and complete an in-person clinical training at any health care setting.
During the clinical studies, you work under the mentorship and supervision of a certified nursing assistant or a registered nurse. You will learn the duties of a CNA and have the opportunity to take vital signs and administer medications as well as other patient care.
Hands-on clinical experience is important because it will allow you to gain professional experience while gaining the necessary certifications. It will also certify that you have knowledge of the relevant nursing standards and can handle the physical demands of the job.
4. Acquire official certification
After completing the clinical training, the next step would be to take and pass a state-approved CNA certification exam.
The CNA certification exam certifies that you now possess the relevant knowledge and skills necessary to administer nursing care to patients and residents.
In the United States, the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) is the largest CNA certification exam for nursing assistants. NNAAP is used by 20 states to award certification to nurse aides while other states have their own CNA certification exams.
The NNAAP exam comprises two sections including a written or oral portion and a skills demonstration component. Candidates have the option of taking the exam in English or Spanish. In the exam, you will find questions on anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and emergency procedures.
5. Prepare your CNA resume and apply for jobs
Upon passing the NNAAP exam and gaining licensure, take your time and create a compelling resume. Choose the specific experiences and skills you want to highlight in your resume. You should consider using the keywords used in the nursing assistant job descriptions to write your resume. This will make your resume stand out from the resume of other candidates.
Once you have created your resume, start applying to nursing assisting jobs near you. Keep in mind that every new job application needs a different CNA resume as the keywords used in the job descriptions may vary.
Some nursing aide jobs may require you to write a cover letter. So, craft the cover letter and make it compelling by using the keywords in the job descriptions where necessary.
You will find nursing assisting jobs in hospitals, nursing homes, inpatient or outpatient care facilities, clinics, and rehabilitation centers.
Is your resume ready? If yes, then apply for Top 10 Nursing Assistant Jobs in the USA in 2022
What is the salary and employment growth of certified nursing assistants?
According to PayScale, the average salary of certified nursing assistants is $13.69 per hour. This translates to an average salary of $28,530 per year. The salary of CNAs varies depending on certain factors including location, level of experience, continued training, number of working hours, and overtime.
There is a high demand for certified nursing assistants (CNA) and the high demand is projected to continue throughout the next decade. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of CNAs is projected to grow by 8% from 2020 to 2030.
As the baby boomer generation ages, there will be an increase in the demand for more long-term nursing care facilities. These facilities will need more nursing assistants to care for the aging generation who are likely to suffer from dementia and other neurologic changes.
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Providing patient care to patients and residents is vital but observing them constantly is more important so as to obtain vital signs. For this reason, the job of a certified nursing assistant (CNA) cannot be overemphasized.
While CNAs work under the supervision of RNs or LPNs, they are the backbone of health care as they spend more time with patients than any other health care professional. Nursing assistants help with almost everything that a patient or resident in a hospital or other health care setting may need.
If you have chosen this career path, you may have to consider pursuing state-approved CNA training, completing in-person clinical training, gaining CNA certification, and applying to work as a nursing assistant in a health care setting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do certified nursing assistant's work?
Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) work in hospitals, long-term residential facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, adult day-care centers, and clinical facilities (rarely).
Can a nursing student work as a CNA?
Yes. Many nursing students work as CNAs during nursing school in order to gain more hands-on experience. However, not all employers offer this opportunity to nursing students.
What skills do I need for the nursing assisting job?
To work as a certified nursing assistant, you will need to have communication (written and verbal) skills, attention to detail, empathy, time management, flexibility, and organizational skills.
What is the fastest way to become a certified nursing assistant?
The fastest way that you can use to become a certified nursing assistant is to enroll in a fast-track CNA training program. Fast-track CNA programs take less than 4 weeks to complete. By enrolling in a fast-track program, you will take classes online at your own convenience and attend in-person classes to acquire hands-on clinical experience.
How much will it cost me to enroll in a CNA program?
It will cost you between $700 and $1,500 to enroll in CNA programs. The good thing is that you can complete the program between four (4) to twelve (12) months.