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How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant: CNA Training Options and FAQs

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Would you like to pursue a healthcare career where you can work closely with patients without needing a college degree? Learning how to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can offer entry into a rewarding role that is crucial for providing patient care and supporting the broader team of medical professionals dedicated to patient health.

CNA training can teach you how to work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) to provide round-the-clock patient care. As a nurse's aide or assistant, you play a pivotal role in your patient's daily life, often being the first one they reach out to for assistance with daily tasks and the individual they communicate with most frequently.

As our aging population increases, the number of jobs for CNAs is expected to increase over the next few years. There are plenty of job opportunities for nursing assistants, aides, and attendants. Plus, your skills will always be relevant, regardless of the economic climate.

CNA Training and Career FAQs:

Note that several job titles encompass the certified nursing assistant (CNA) role, which are often used interchangeably. These titles include nurse aide, nursing care attendant, and nursing attendant.

CNA Training and Career FAQs

What are the main steps to becoming a CNA?

  • Obtain your high school diploma or GED
  • Complete mandatory nursing assistant training (virtual or in-classroom)
  • Complete supervised clinical training
  • Sit the nursing assistant competency exam

After you earn your CNA certification, you can apply to be on your state's CNA registry or nursing aide registry.

Your certification will last for two years. After that, depending on your state, you may need further training or another competency exam to renew your certification status.

Becoming a nurse assistant gives you an excellent opportunity to decide whether you want to take your nursing career further by training to be an RN or LPN.

What do certified nursing assistants do?

What do certified nursing assistants do?CNAs provide direct patient care in various settings, including hospitals, assisted living homes, and nursing care facilities. These professionals help patients who are too sick or weak to look after themselves and provide compassionate care. In addition, they often get to know patients' likes and dislikes, learn about their lives, and help protect vulnerable patients.

The role of a CNA can include:

  • Checking and recording vital signs, such as blood pressure or temperature
  • Documenting patients' observations
  • Helping patients bathe or use the bathroom
  • Assisting patients to brush their teeth, comb their hair, or get dressed
  • Changing the position of bedridden patients
  • Dressing skin wounds
  • Feeding patients
  • Communicating with patients' families

As you'll be in close contact with your patients, you'll also often be the first one to notice if there is anything wrong. By reporting your observations to the supervising RN, you can make a significant difference in someone's life from a seemingly small intervention.

In some states, obtaining your Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license as young as 16 years old is possible, but some employers may choose not to hire until applicants are at least 18.

What's the difference between a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN)?

Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses have more advanced training and education than certified nursing assistants.

CNAs are responsible for basic patient care under the supervision of a nurse (LPN or RN). Training typically can be completed in a matter of months.

LPNs can generally perform more straightforward medical procedures, such as inserting catheters and administering injections and other forms of medication. They can also discuss treatment plans with doctors, patients, and their families. LPNs require more schooling and have more responsibilities than nurse assistants.

RNs take a more advanced role in patient care and diagnosis. They can interpret blood tests and other diagnostic test results, administer medication, and work with medical staff to coordinate patient care. RNs also generally supervise LPNs as needed. RNs require more training than the other two careers outlined.

Healthcare is all about teamwork. All nursing staff are crucial to the smooth functioning of a healthcare environment, centered around the most important person: the patient.

How long does it take to become a certified nursing assistant?

CNA training programs can last 4 weeks to 12 weeks (1-3 months). The length of training time will depend on the state you live in and which course you apply for. CNA programs generally include a required number of hours working under supervision in a clinical setting.

How many clinical hours does a CNA need?

You will usually have to complete around 16 hours of supervised clinical training, though this can vary between course providers. The mandatory training can range from 75 to over 120 hours, depending on your state.

Can I do CNA training part-time?

Many CNA training programs can be carried out part-time. Plenty of students have part-time jobs or other personal responsibilities.

The classroom component of a CNA course schedule is likely the most flexible. Some CNA courses can also be completed online. Keep in mind that you may have to work 12-hour shifts when you start your clinical training hours.

Find out from your nearest community college if they run a part-time nursing assistant training course.

Can I take the CNA competency exam without taking classes?

Most states require you to complete a set number of hours of training before you can take the exam. This requirement is for your safety and the safety of your patients; you should be equipped with the clinical skills and practical know-how needed to care for sick and vulnerable patients.

The competency exam will include a written component and a practical skills test. You'll be evaluated on five core skills in this practical test, and you will have a set amount of time to complete your tasks, which will vary depending on the skills assigned to you.

It might take you longer to complete the full nursing assistant training, but it's better to have it. CNA training can give you the best chance to pass the competency exam and earn your Certified Nursing Assistant certification.

If you have previous healthcare experience and believe it may qualify you to take the competency exam without additional training, please contact your state registry to determine whether you are required to undergo the mandatory training program.

How much do CNAs earn?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics groups certified nursing assistants with similar job titles that encompass the same job duties, including nurse aides, nursing care attendants, and nursing attendants.

  • The lowest 10 percent (generally entry-level) earned $28,030 annually, or $13.48 per hour.*
  • The median salary for CNAs is $35,760 annually or $17.19 per hour.*
  • The highest-earning 10 percent received more than $45,940 per year, or $22.09 an hour.*

Some states tend to pay nursing assistants more than others, so depending on where you live, you may make more or less than these wage estimates.

What is the job outlook for nursing assistants?

As our aging population increases, there is a higher need for nursing staff, including assistants and aides. This industry's projected job growth rate from 2022 to 2032 is 4%, which is about as fast as average for all jobs.* Nursing assistants can take comfort in knowing that hands-on patient care cannot be replicated by technology or delegated offshore, making it a dependable career path for the future.

Is it worth becoming a CNA?

Many professionals in this field would say, yes, absolutely! Ultimately, it depends on your goals, qualities, and limitations. But if you're already interested in a patient care career, this is a great place to start. Once you are working in the field, you can decide if advancing your nursing education is a good idea for the future. Nursing assistant training also provides direct clinical experience, which can help transition you into another healthcare field.

You can develop a strong sense of job satisfaction by providing a positive experience for patients under your care. In addition, making a difference to people needing medical attention and their concerned and loving family members can be incredibly rewarding.

Get Started on Your CNA Training Today!

Ready to start your journey toward a rewarding and reliable career as a certified nursing assistant? Take the next step and find CNA classes near you.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook (visited February 20, 2024).