certified nursing assistant

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a person who assists patients with healthcare needs and cares for a patient who is ill or recovering from a surgery or disease. CNA’s duties are assigned by a registered professional nurse. Sometime they provide service on activities of daily living, bedside care, including basic nursing procedures under the supervision of a registered nurse.

"As a CNA, you hold your residents in the palms of your hands."
Lori Porter - NAHCA Co-Founder, CEO
Lori Porter
Co-Founder / CEO, National Association of Health Care Assistants

CNAs help residents with basic needs. These could include duties such as:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Turning or transferring
  • Answering call lights
  • Gathering vital signs and documenting
  • Combing hair, shaving
  • Cleaning rooms and linens
  • Dressing wounds
  • Assisting with elimination
  • Gathering supplies

Here are a few examples of where you will find a CNA hard at work:

  • Long Term Care Facilities (Nursing Homes)
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Adult Day Cares
  • Hospitals
  • Doctors office
  • Home Health Agencies

CNAs provide some of the most intimate care to those they serve.  Here are a few: 

  • Empathy and compassion
  • Strength both mentally and physically
  • Superior communication skills
  • Reliability
  • Good time management skills
  • Flexibility

Becoming a CNA In Your State

Each state may have different requirements for becoming a CNA. To find out, click on your state to find out specific requirements.

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State Approval

Each state has its own requirements for training and certification to become a practicing CNA.

Program Cost

The cost of a CNA program can vary from school to school, but in general, CNA training programs are less expensive than an LPN training program, as the curriculum is less in-depth.

Time Commitment

A CNA training program can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks to complete, and will include clinical training hours in addition to classroom hours.

Online vs. On Campus

Another program element to consider is whether or not your school of choice offers online courses.

CNAs Matter

What is a CNA?

Certified Nursing Assistants often have a better understanding of the residents’ needs and requirements than the additional nursing staff. Many will develop ongoing relationships with the patients as they have more one-on-one time with them than any other in the medical staff.

During the course of a shift, they are required to maintain records of all their residents, which are referred to by the nursing staff. They have to be sure to document the correct information, which includes the vital signs and any changes they observe in their condition. It is their job as Certified Nursing Assistants to inform the medical staff if the resident under their observation needs more urgent care.

CNA Curriculum & Program Information

CNA training programs prepare students for their state’s nursing assistant certification exam. Classwork includes training on performing CPR, first aid skills, human anatomy, basics of patient caregiving including taking vital signs, personal hygiene and range-of-motion exercises, infection control and general safety. CNA classes offered by healthcare institutions will also provide specifics on working with their patient population, whether they are elderly residents of a nursing home or patients for a home healthcare organization. CNA programs will also include hands-on training hours working directly with patients in which students can put their classwork into practice.

CNA training programs generally take between 6 and 12 weeks to complete, with some programs that can be completed in as little as 4 weeks. Completion time for a CNA program can depend on a few factors including the type of school, whether the student is studying on a full- or part-time basis, and if they are taking self-paced online courses. The relatively quick completion time of a CNA training program makes this nursing career choice particularly attractive for students who want to begin working as soon as possible.

The cost of a CNA training program can vary based on the type of school and geographic location, but in general nursing assistant training programs are much more affordable than an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. As an example of costs, the American Red Cross offers Nursing Assistant Training programs across the country. In Pennsylvania, the American Red Cross program costs $1,300 which includes the cost of the state competency exam and all supplies except for uniforms and a watch with a second hand. When researching CNA programs, make sure to ask the school about non-tuition expenses, which may include uniforms, stethoscope and other supplies, books and certification exam fees.

Each state has specific requirements for nursing assistants’ education and certification. Each state has an approved list of CNA training programs, all of which will adequately prepare students for their state’s certification exam. In some cases you will not be allowed to take the certification exam if you haven’t completed a state-approved program, so make sure the program you select has been approved in your state.

Once you have completed your CNA training program, you are eligible to take your state’s competency exam. Specifics of the exam may vary slightly from state to state, but generally include the following topics: activities of daily living, safety, infection control, data collection and reporting and legal and ethical issues. Once you have passed the competency exam you will be able to begin working as a certified nursing assistant!

As with other nursing professions, certified nursing assistants also need to satisfy their state’s continuing education requirements for re-certification. In general, CNAs will need to complete 48 hours of continuing education courses every 24 months. Be sure to check with your state’s board of nursing or health for requirements specific to your home state.

NAHCA members have access to 12 hours of continuing education. Join Here

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