What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?
A certified nurse assistant has responsibility for serving the needs of their patients while under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Certified Nurse Assistants are the liaison between the patient and the licensed nurse. The CNA’s primary responsibility is to take care of the patient’s personal and healthcare needs as well as communicate critical information about the patient’s health. A CNA may work in various healthcare facilities such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, or even personal homes. The work is fast-paced, and CNAs must have a strong work ethic to be successful.
When researching how to become certified as a nurse assistant, it should be known that CNAs can be recognized under several different names. Certified nurse assistants are referred to as Nurse Aides (NA), Personal Care Aides (PCA), State Tested Nurse Aides (STNA in Ohio), Unlicensed Assistive Personnel (UAP), or Licensed Nurse Aides (LNA in Arizona and Vermont).
This site is designed to provide free CNA training tips, practice tests, career resources, job listings and guidance to anyone interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. You can find free local CNA classes near you by searching in your state within our free CNA classes guide.
Benefits of Becoming a CNA
Becoming a certified nurse assistant is quickly becoming the fastest way into nursing. The demand for CNAs is overwhelming due to the growing percentage of the population that requires medical attention. As a CNA, there is typically freedom to select schedules that fit your needs. CNAs are hired to fill day, evening, and weekend shifts in most facilities. There are many different types of facilities or individuals that employ CNAs, so the work environment can vary. The workday is usually varied and fast-paced. Once you have become a CNA, then there are many more opportunities for continued education and more career options.
The Requirements to Become a CNA
The minimum requirement is at least 75 hours of classroom and hands-on instruction in a clinical setting. Many states exceed the essential requirement and go up to as many as 180 hours of training. A high school diploma is not necessary for most states to become a CNA, but could be a barrier if other careers in healthcare are desired. Other requirements may be necessary before being accepted into a CNA training course. These requirements could include current medical physical, criminal background check, immunization verification, and CPR certification. If interested in pursuing CNA training, then verify what your state requirements are for how to become a CNA.
There are state-approved programs available to become a certified nurse assistant, so access those resources before applying to a course. Once enrolled in a training course, then training is led by a licensed registered nurse who is active and has experience with teaching. The course will be divided into 10-23 modules (dependent on state) and will cover topics such as the role of nurses assistant, patients safety, infection control, nutrition, and communication with the healthcare team. These are just some of the modules taught throughout the course. Training is comprised of lecture in a classroom setting, skills labs, and clinical experiences typically within a medical facility.
When searching for CNA training courses, there are many options that are free and local to you. Your local Red Cross may offer free CNA training as well as nursing homes, long-term healthcare facilities, and other job corp resources. The courses and resources available will all vary by state. The free CNA training programs are a risk-free way to discover if the job is for you.
State CNA Competency Exam
Once training is completed, then each person is eligible to take the state’s written and skills exam for certification. You will need to find or ask your training facility to assist in finding a state-approved testing facility. Once the testing location is identified, then you will need to provide documentation showing successful completion training. There is both a written and skills evaluation for the exam. Once you have passed the state exam, then your name will be added to the Nurse Aide Registry.
To help you prepare, this site provides a number of CNA practice tests to assist with your exam (click the link jump to start our free CNA practice test). These questions have been designed to replicate the types of questions you will see on the CNA certification exam administered across the country by Pearson VUE and Prometric. Our free practice tests offer a variety of ways for you to brush up on the skills you’ve learned in your CNA classes. You can take a practice test that focuses on a specific category of question, or you can take one of our standard tests which will test the full spectrum of CNA skills.
Once you have received your certificate, you will need to verify how often your state requires renewal. Each state will have different renewal periods and also potential continuing education requirements. It is vital to understand all of these requirements after you receive your certification.
After you complete the exam and have your certificate, then you are free to begin your job search. CNAs can expect to make in the neighborhood of $12-$13 an hour, but CNA salary will vary based on facility and state. As mentioned previously, there are many different environments to secure your CNA job.
If you desire further career growth after gaining your CNA certificate and job experience, then there are a wide variety of careers to consider for your future. All of the career paths will require additional training, certification, or education. You should research each option to determine what is necessary for each position. Future opportunities range from becoming a registered nurse, home health aide, certified medical assistant, pharmacy technician, emergency medical technician, or physical therapy job.