A career as a nursing assistant is ideal for those who like both working with and taking care of people. Certified nursing assistants, also known as CNAs and nursing aides, are vital members of the healthcare team who provide basic care and assistance to patients under the supervision of nursing staff. If you are a compassionate person who enjoys helping people, working as a CNA might be a great fit for you. Join a quick path to a career in nursing by learning more about how to become a certified nursing assistant.
Education Required for Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant
Becoming a certified nursing assistant requires you to earn a postsecondary certificate and pass a competency exam in your state.
The prerequisites for entering a CNA training program are usually a high school diploma or GED and the completion of placement tests. Programs are available at vocational schools, community colleges, technical schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and high schools.
Curriculum and Length
The training requirements for CNAs vary, but in most states, CNAs must undergo at least 120 hours of training. Students learn the principles of nursing through theory/lab work conducted in the classroom and supervised clinical work. It can take as little as four weeks to complete a CNA training program.
Certified Nursing Assistant Job Overview
Working closely with patients to assist them with a variety of tasks, nursing aides play a key role in keeping nurses up-to-date on the condition of patients. Nursing aides are typically employed at hospitals and long-term care facilities. Some duties that CNAs perform on the job include feeding, bathing, dressing, grooming, and moving patients; toilet assistance; helping patients walk; taking vital signs; and changing linens. In nursing homes, nursing assistants are often the principal caregivers.
Qualities that are important for nursing aides to possess include compassion, patience, and communication skills. Nursing aides should also be able to perform general physical activities, because of the physical demands of the job.
Advancement Opportunities for Nursing Aides
Certified Medication Assistant
CNAs are required to pursue continuing education in many states. CNAs may also have the option to gain additional credentials, such as becoming a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA), which allows them to give patients medications.
Patient Care Technician
In some states, CNAs may also undergo additional training and become certified patient care technicians, who assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals in providing direct patient care. Patient care technicians are typically trained to perform additional tasks, such as EKGs and taking blood samples. Although CNAs and patient care technicians are considered one in the same in some states.
LPN or RN Training
Some nurse’s aides will use their certification as a stepping-stone to purse training to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). LPN certification typically takes a year to complete, whereas becoming a registered nurse will require either a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Employment Outlook for CNAs
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment of nursing aides is expected to grow at a faster than average rate of 21% from 2012 to 2022. Because of the growing elderly population, the job prospects for certified nursing assistants are expected to be excellent in the coming years, particularly in long-term care facilities.
In 2013, the median annual wage for certified nursing assistants was $24,890, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10% earned $18,600, and the top 10% earned $35,780. The top paying states were Alaska, New York, Nevada, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Finding a CNA School
Now that you know how to become a certified nursing assistant, consider enrolling in a training program today to launch a rewarding career as a nursing aide.