How to Become a CNA
Do you like to help others? Are you a compassionate and empathetic person? Do you have good communication skills? If you answered yes to these questions and you are interested in working in the fast paced and in demand field of healthcare becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, CNA, might be a good thing for you to do.
CNA’s are often the people patients see most often on a daily basis. Due to this fact, patients especially those in nursing homes, can become attached to the nursing assistants who help take care of them. This can make working as a CNA especially rewarding.
This article and website will try to explain the various facets of what it is like to be a CNA and how to become a CNA yourself.
What is a CNA?
Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, provide personal (basic) care to patients in hospitals and residents of long term care facilities, such as nursing homes, while working under the supervision of nurses and doctors.
In addition to helping patients with activities of daily living, nursing assistants check with the supervising nurse for updates and instructions about each patient and may be asked to do other tasks such as answer call bells, explain some medical instructions to patients and family members, set up and monitor equipment, record vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and respiration.
What are the Physical Demands of Being a CNA?
It is extremely helpful to be physically fit if you plan to work as a CNA. Certified Nursing Assistants need to be able to lift or assist others in the lifting patients. They also need to be able to help patients with tasks of daily living, like getting out of bed, hygiene, getting dressed, using the toilet, standing, and walking. In addition to lifting and carrying heavy objects, CNA;s need the stamina to stay active for long periods of time, standing, walking and sometimes running as they care for patients.
What are the Requirements to Become a CNA?
Depending on where you live the exact requirements to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant can vary, but typically you need to:
• have a high school diploma or GED; and
• complete a training program.
Where to Obtain CNA Training?
To work as a CNA you need to complete a training program. Nursing Assistant training programs can be found at community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, nursing homes and Red Cross. Sometimes high schools will also offer nursing assistant training programs.
When choosing a CNA training program, you should always make sure that it meets your state’s CNA certification standards before deciding to enroll.
It is also important to note that there are two components of any CNA course. The first part of the program is the course that teaches the theory of nurse assisting along with anatomy, physiology, and personal care skills. The second part of the program is the in-person clinical practicum portion where you learn/demonstrate the practical skills in a supervised setting.
How long does CNA Training take?
In the school-based training programs students learn about anatomy and physiology along with the basic principals of nursing and personal care skills. Included in this training is supervised clinical work. These programs usually take between two and five weeks to complete, but some last a few months. The exact duration of a training program can vary depending on who is offering the training. In fact, some places that offer training for Nursing Assistants will sometimes offer trainings that last for different amounts of time in an effort to accommodate people with different scheduling needs.
Upon successful completion of the class, you still need to pass your states’s examination that is required to place your name on the State’s Nursing Assistant Registry. Once your name is on the registry you can begin working as a CNA.
Is Training Offered Online?
Yes, there are CNA training options that are offered online. However, just as you would with an in-person CNA training program, you should always make sure that it meets your state’s CNA certification standards before deciding to enroll in an online CNA program.
When choosing an online Certified Nursing Assistant training program it is important to note that there are two components of any CNA course. The first part of the program is the classroom portion that teaches the theory of nurse assisting along with anatomy, physiology, and personal care skills. The second part is the in-person clinical portion where you learn/demonstrate the practical skills in a supervised setting. You should not choose an online nurse assisting program that does not give you a chance to learn the necessary hands-on skills.
So what you are really getting with a an online CNA training program is classroom portion. You need to make sure that they also offer a clinical practicum as part of the program before enrolling.
Online CNA programs are ideal for people whose schedules don’t allow them to attend during the times that the training/class is offered. In contrast many in-person training programs have strict attendance policies, which may prevent students with inflexible schedules from completing the program.
While being very convenient, online CNA programs can be much more expensive than in-person training programs. In addition, online certified nurses assistant training programs usually don’t offer guaranteed job placement upon completion of the program. and certification exam, which is something that is commonly offered in programs that are based in nursing homes or hospitals.
How much does CNA Training Cost?
The cost can vary greatly depending on where you live and where you decide to get your training. However, you should usually expect to pay between $400 to over $1000 for CNA training.
After successfully completing the training you will need to pay additional fees to take the test to become certified in your home state.
Can I get CNA training for free?
You can sometimes find nursing homes, hospitals, and home health agencies that offer free CNA training for potential employees. In exchange, the recipients of this training agree to work at the facility for a specified period of time after completion of the CNA training course.
Contact your local hospitals and nursing homes to see if they offer this free training.
What Happens After Completing the CNA Training?
As stated earlier, after successful completion of the Nursing Assistant class/training, you still need to pass your states’s examination that is required to place your name on the State’s Nursing Assistant Registry. After your name appears in the registry you can begin working as a CNA.
Do CNAs need CPR certification?
CPR certification is not required in the Nursing Assistant training or Certification process. However, it is still a good idea to get your CPR or BLS certification, because when you look at job openings for CNAs many listings have CPR or BLS certification as a requirement.
Will I need to pass a background check to become a CNA?
If you are looking into how to become a CNA you need to be prepared to pass a criminal background check just as you would for any employment in the health care field. If you have criminal convictions in your past you may want to consult with the CNA training program you are considering and the appropriate state agency to determine your eligibility to become a CNA.
While not all criminal convictions will prevent you from becoming a CNA you should definitely check into your individual status before enrolling in a training program.
How much do CNAs make?
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual salary for Certified Nursing Assistants in 2011 was $24,190, which comes out to $11.63 per hour. As with all occupations salaries can vary depending on your location.
One way for Nursing Assistants to earn more money is to become certified. Certified Nursing Assistants can work in places that Nursing Assistants who are not certified can’t. Plus CNA’s make more money than uncertified Nursing Assistants.
What is the Demand for CNAs?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the expected job growth for Nursing Assistants for 2010-2020 to be faster than the average at 20% – 28%. The total number of job openings during this period is estimated to be 496,100.
One reason for this job growth is due to the fact the the number of older Americans will continue to grow during this time period. The primary employers for CNA’s are nursing homes and personal care facilities, hospitals, and residential care homes.
Learning how to become a CNA can be the gateway to a fun and fulfilling career path for the right person. People who are patient, compassionate, like working as part of a team, and are interested in the field of health care are often a great fit in this profession. With jobs opening up everyday and with the ability to complete your training in just a few short weeks, it’s a great opportunity for those looking to jump-start their career in health care.
Image Credits: Walt Stoneburner & jencu on Flickr