Do you want to venture into nursing but aren’t quite sure about it? You can test the waters by becoming a certified nursing assistant or CNA. It takes about 4 to 8 weeks of training before you get a certification.
Read on to learn more about the typical responsibilities of a CNA and how much you can earn from being one.
What Does CNA Stand for?
CNA is an acronym for Certified Nursing Assistant. It’s an entry-level position in a healthcare setting that provides basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors.
As a CNA, you’re not officially a nurse. Thus, you’re not legally responsible for the health care of a patient. That means you work under the direction of other healthcare providers, such as professional nurses and physicians.
You need to possess certain traits to qualify as a CNA. These include the following:
- Team player
- Effective communication skills
- Physical fitness
With these skills and sufficient clinical knowledge, you can be prepared for the different responsibilities of a certified nursing assistant.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A CNA?
Most of your responsibilities as a CNA typically involve helping patients with their daily living activities. That means you’ll be spending more time with patients than the nurses. And in the process, you’ll develop a better understanding of their behaviors and health conditions.
Individual responsibilities may vary based on your work setting or the type of patients you serve. Your typical tasks include:
- Repositioning patients in bed
- Stocking medical supplies, such as prescription drugs or dressing packs.
- Bathing patients
- Helping patients with personal grooming, like shaving them or brushing their teeth
- Feeding patients and recording their food and liquid intake
- Responding to patient calls and notifying the professional nurse about emergencies
- Measuring and recording vital signs like oxygen level, blood pressure, and heart rate.
- Documenting patient information
- Ensuring patient comfort by cleaning rooms and bedding
- Helping with some medical procedures under the supervision of licensed healthcare providers
- Performing simple dressing changes for patients
- Mobility assistance, including transport and range of motion.
- Safety protocols
These tasks are usually performed by CNAs and other medical staff at a wide variety of healthcare facilities.
Where Can a CNA Work?
As a CNA, you can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including the following:
General or specialty hospitals are a popular work environment for most CNAs. Hospitals go for experienced CNAs because of the high patient population and the range of tasks that need to be performed on-site. In this work setting, you can expect to see a higher number of patients with a wider age range and different healthcare requirements.
Long-Term Residential Facilities
These facilities accommodate the aged population who can’t do things on their own or those born with or who have developed disabilities. As a CNA, you will help them with daily living activities. You can expect to work with the same set of patients over a duration of time.
Certified nursing assistants can also work in nursing homes. Most patients in nursing homes are seniors who need round-the-clock care. You’ll often assist them with routine daily activities, like bathing, eating, or taking medication. Therefore, you’ll need to have compassion and emotional endurance to handle your responsibilities.
Rehabilitation centers help people recover from illnesses, injuries, and chronic diseases. As a CNA, your work here will be to support patients through their daily activities, ensure they eat well, and make sure that they’re well-groomed.
Adult Daycare Centers
CNAs can also work in adult daycare centers. Here, you’ll be working on a 9-to-5 schedule because patients have to return to their homes in the evenings.
This work setting can be slow-paced, with patients requiring less intensive care. You can expect to help the patients with mobility, feeding, using the bathroom, and recreational activities.
Certified nursing assistants would rarely get hired in outpatient clinical facilities. That’s because patients who need specialized care are quite few. But if you’re lucky enough, you can be hired here to help nurses and physicians take vital signs and prepare examination rooms.
Now that you know where you can find work as a CNA, it would be useful to also know exactly what you need to study to become one.
CNA Education Requirements
Since it’s an entry-level position, becoming a CNA shouldn’t be as rigorous as other medical careers. Yet, you still need relevant education and clinical training. Once certified, you can apply for jobs and earn from your skillset.
Each state has its own set of education requirements for CNAs. So you should confirm with your state’s Board of Nursing to make sure that your chosen CNA training program meets your state’s criteria.
The state’s Board of Nursing or Department of Health is the organization in charge of CNAs. You can complete the state-approved CNA training offered at various locations, including:
- High schools
- Community colleges
- Vocational schools
- Local hospitals
CNA training classes take about 4 to 8 weeks to complete and comprise both class hours and clinical hours. Here, you’ll learn tons of medical and patient care skills, as well as vital ethical and moral values that will help you serve the patients accordingly.
Once you complete CNA training classes, you must achieve CAN certification before you can work in the position.
CNAs need a certification before they can practice. Different states will have unique criteria for the CNA certification process. Before certification, you must sit for the state-required CNA competency exams.
The exam consists of two sections:
- A written or oral exam
- A practical exam where you show your ability to complete certain tasks
Passing the exams puts your name on your state’s list of certified nursing assistants. This certification is important as it boosts your prospects when you apply for CNA jobs.
The requirements for maintaining a CNA certification differ from one state to another. Some states impose continuing education requirements. Meanwhile, others expect proof of work as a CNA for a certain number of hours in the two years prior to your renewal date.
You can also specialize in caring for patients with a unique set of needs. In this case, you would need further education, clinical training, and certification. Here are examples of specialties for certified nursing assistants:
- Psychiatric care: This specialization involves caring for patients suffering from psychological conditions.
- Pediatric care: You’ll provide care to children with various conditions.
- Cardiology: You’ll provide care to patients with heart ailments.
- Orthopedic care: You’ll help patients with limited mobility perform daily living activities such as walking, eating, or bathing.
As of May 2021, the average yearly salary for certified nursing assistants was $30,290. This translates to an hourly wage of around $14.96.
Note that the salary ranges may vary greatly depending on several factors, including the following:
- Work setting
- Skill level
- Years of experience
For example, a certified nursing assistant working in a government hospital may earn a higher median salary than one who offers home health care services. Also, the typical pay for a CNA role in some cities is higher than the national average.
The Bottom Line
Certified nursing assistants are currently in high demand, with their overall employment expected to grow by 5 percent through the next decade. So if you’re still skeptical about being a CNA, then this should persuade you to pursue your dreams.
Becoming a CNA offers you the golden opportunity to gain practical healthcare experience. And the best part is that you don’t even need a college degree. For potential nurses, it’s a chance to test the waters before committing to a longer nursing program. For others, being a CNA provides the satisfaction of assisting those in need.