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How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the foot soldiers of the healthcare industry. They are crucial workers in the field of medicine who perform a variety of roles regarding patient care. If you want to learn how to become a CNA and how long it takes to become a CNA, then look no further as CareerKarma has got you covered.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about becoming a certified nursing assistant. What are the educational requirements for a job as a CNA? What are the skills and duties required for CNAs? What are the best CNA programs available today? Read on to learn the answers to all of these questions and more.

What is a CNA?

If you’re a conscientious, compassionate, and motivated worker, then a job as a certified nursing assistant is perfect for you. CNAs assist nurses in their daily duties and help take care of patients in various healthcare settings, from clinics to hospitals. Although they do not perform nursing duties, they are still integral to providing the necessary support for both patients and workers.

Not only are CNAs in high demand but pursuing a career as a CNA requires minimal education—you can start working after just six weeks. CNAs can expect to work in a variety of healthcare facilities and provide services that are critical to the success of healthcare operations.

What Does a CNA Do?

A career as a CNA is built on providing optimal assistance and care in a medical setting. CNAs spend more time assisting patients than all other hospital workers. Under the guidance of their supervisors (such as registered nurses), CNAs spend their time caring for patients through physical and emotional assistance.

Patient Care

Regarding patient care, here are some roles that a CNA can expect to fulfill on a typical day:

  • Dressing wounds and bathing patients
  • Recording patients’ vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure
  • Answering patient calls and providing emotional support
  • Feeding patients, recording their food intake
  • Cleaning and maintaining rooms

Staff Assistance

Here are some other roles a CNA can expect to fulfill in regards to assisting nurses or doctors:

  • Setting up equipment and helping with medical procedures
  • Documenting patients’ health issues and reporting to nurses
  • Relaying information as a conduit between caregivers and patients
  • Working with software for billing and health information
  • Providing any other information or service in order to help primary caregivers

Although CNAs can be found in hospitals, the majority of them work in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Here, certified nursing assistants interact with patients on a regular basis and get to know them personally.

If you’re interested in joining the booming healthcare field, becoming a CNA can be a good place to start as the job provides many opportunities for career advancement. Read on to discover which personal and professional attributes will help you most in order to succeed as a CNA.

CNA Skills

A successful career is not just defined by possessing the necessary degrees and certifications. The ability to juggle hard clinical skills with soft skills is essential for any occupation, especially as a CNA. With the skills mentioned below, you can make a positive difference in any healthcare setting.

Interpersonal Skills

Perhaps the most imperative skillset that all CNAs need are interpersonal or soft skills. Having an empathetic attitude along with excellent communication skills will help you as a nurse aide and with patient care. Being an active listener and knowing how to communicate verbally and non-verbally is imperative in any medical setting.

Furthermore, employing interpersonal skills such as cooperation, teamwork, and responsibility can help you excel in your career as a CNA, and this may lead to a plethora of career advancement opportunities.

In sum, good interpersonal skills, such as time management skills, are what will separate you from the average worker. You will be able to handle the many responsibilities of a CNA with the interpersonal skills mentioned above.

Strong Work Ethic

It should come as no surprise that a job as a certified nursing assistant is demanding. As a CNA, you will have to work arduous shifts tending to patients and fulfilling your superior’s requests. Hence, being adaptable and hardworking will be particularly beneficial in this line of work.

As a CNA, you’ll have to deal with a variety of issues such as unpredictable emergencies, unruly patients, or staff conflicts. Knowing how to persevere and work your way around such issues will allow you to succeed at your job, and make your peers and patients look up to you.

Compassion and Care

Although it may not seem like a skill, being a compassionate worker is of utmost importance for any healthcare worker. As a nurse aide or medication assistant, you should possess strong traits of hospitality and feel satisfaction by caring for your patients. By treating the old and the sick as you would like to be treated yourself, you will not only establish stronger bonds with those around you but you will also excel at your job.

On that note, knowing how to channel your feelings into actions is another vital attribute. From bathing patients to cleaning rooms and providing home health care, having a warm and compassionate attitude to your work is essential. This will make your job as a CNA more rewarding, as you will feel like you’re really making a difference for hundreds of lives.

If you possess these three attributes, then a job as a CNA may be your true calling.

CNA Salaries and Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earned a median salary of $29,640 in 2019. Though this may be considered below average, it is still ample pay for a job that requires only six weeks to six months of training. Furthermore, a job as a CNA can be a stepping stone for a variety of higher jobs in healthcare, from nursing to healthcare administration.

By earning a bachelor’s in nursing or healthcare administration, your background as a CNA will be an impressive addition to your resume, if you choose to advance in your career. There are several other factors that may influence your salary, such as location, experience, and individual performance.

Furthermore, the job growth of nursing assistants is expected to grow by eight percent (much faster than average) by 2028. This means about 174,000 job openings, on average, are projected for nursing assistants each year for the next decade. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as the increasing baby boomer population and the increasing patient-to-nurse ratio throughout the nation.

A career as a CNA entails taxing work, but it also offers excellent job security, a rewarding career, and the chance to help thousands of people.

How to Become a CNA: A Step by Step Guide

As mentioned, training and education for CNAs can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. The length of your training will depend on several factors, such as the length of the specific program you attend, and how long it takes you to pass the NNAAP exam. Read on to discover the main steps you must take in order to become a CNA.

Step 1: Be Eligible

In order to enroll in a CNA program, you should be at least 18 years of age. You must also possess a high school diploma or GED certificate. In order to be eligible to enroll, certain programs may also require you to have a background in nursing assistant training, CPR, or First Aid. You can find these programs at community colleges, trade schools, and medical facilities.

Before enrolling, prospective CNAs should be sure the program they're looking into is approved by their state's nursing board and by the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission. On that note, let’s discuss how to find the right kind of CNA training programs and what they entail.

Step 2: Find the Right CNA Training Program

Once you meet the eligibility requirements for training, the next step is to find a CNA program that is suited to your needs. Some factors you should look for are the length, cost, and flexibility of the program.

Would you prefer a shorter, fast-paced approach or a slower, more intensive program? How much can you afford to spend on a program? Are the courses offered online or at convenient times?

Fortunately, a CNA doesn’t need to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree to practice. However, formal training resulting in a postsecondary certificate or award is required. A typical CNA training program combines theoretical courses regarding anatomy, medical terminology, and geriatrics, along with hands-on nursing training. Here are some CNA programs that may be right for you.

Step 3: Pass the NNAAP and Gain a License

After you complete your training, you’ll be one step away from working as a CNA. All you need to do next is pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) exam and acquire your nursing assistant license. The NNAAP consists of two components: a written or oral portion and a skills demonstration portion, and is offered in both Spanish and English.

Furthermore, you’ll need to meet a number of requirements in order to start working as a CNA depending on the state you plan to work in. For instance, Washington State requires CNAs to complete a background check and be familiar with HIV/AIDS training protocols.

Be sure to check that your CNA program is state-approved and meets the necessary requirements. Once you’ve gained your license and meet all the necessary requirements, you can finally begin working as a CNA.

Should You Become a CNA?

To summarize, a career as a CNA has peaks and valleys like any job. Though it can be a stressful and unpredictable career path, it is also incredibly rewarding. You will play a very important role in whichever healthcare facility you work in and change the lives of many patients.

As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career as a CNA offers several opportunities and an excellent job outlook. If you aspire to pursue a career helping thousands of lives, then there are few options as fulfilling and dynamic as a CNA.


Can I Transition From a CNA Position to an RN Position?
An RN program can take between two and four years to complete. However, CNA to RN programs allow nurse assistants to enroll in the RN program and not have to repeat unnecessary courses. For CNAs entering the RN program, the time to completion is reduced, sometimes by about six months.
How Can I Find the Highest-Paying CNA Jobs?
Generally, jobs in more populated areas such as large cities tend to offer higher salaries than smaller towns to compensate for higher costs of living. Today, the states with the highest paying CNA jobs are Alaska, New York, and Hawaii. Moreover, government organizations make up the highest-paying industry for CNAs, since you can expect to earn over $33,800 per year.
What Is the Fastest Way to Become a CNA?
If you wish to work as a central nursing assistant soon, you should start preparing early. You can do so by taking several relevant healthcare courses before receiving your high school diploma or GED.  Moreover, you should choose a convenient and fast-paced training program that features a hybrid approach and attempt your NNAAP exam soon after completion. By applying for jobs and internships, you can fast-track your path to becoming a CNA.
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