How to Become a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Providing basic care, a Certified Nursing Assistant helps patients with everyday activities of daily living. They may record vital signs, measure food and liquid intake, and remind patients to take their medications at the appropriate times. They also wear uniforms to promote cleanliness and protect their clothing. There are several steps to becoming a nurse, and a CNA is one of them.

What type of job responsibilities does a Certified Nursing Assistant typically have?

A CNA performs different tasks including:

  • Transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Serving meals and helping patients eat
  • Helping patients use the toilet
  • Assisting in dressing patients
  • Observing patients to detect symptoms that need immediate care
  • Report patients’ complaints and symptoms to nurses
  • Providing physical support

Where do Certified Nursing Assistants work?

A Certified Nursing Assistant may work with patients or residents in hospitals – state, local, and private, home health care, residential care facilities, and nursing homes. They may work weekends, nights, and holidays.

What type of Certified Nursing Assistant Programs Might I Need?

According to the BLS, if you want to pursue a career as a CNA, you must complete a state-approved education program and pass your state’s competency exam. Additionally, some states require continuing education and a criminal background check.

You could enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant programs at a local community college, vocational school, or even online to earn your certificate. There are many options for your CNA classes. Once your educational requirements have been met, you may be eligible to take your state competency exam. After passing the test, you might earn the title of CNA – this title may vary from state to state. You are placed on your state’s registry after successfully passing your competency exam. Nursing assistants must be on the state registry in order to work in nursing homes.

What Type of CNA Classes Might I Take?

As with any degree program, certain coursework is generally required. Certified nursing assistant training tends to inlcude a variety of CNA classes such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Mental Health
  • Infection Prevention
  • Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Patient Safety
  • Patient Communication

What is a Certified Nursing Assistant’s Salary Potential

Because the healthcare industry employment is expanding, becoming a CNA may be the perfect career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Median annual wage in 2020 was $30,830.
  • CNA job outlook from 2019 to 2029 is projected to grow much faster than average for all occupations at 8%.

The job outlook could indicate increased demand for nursing assistants, since many aging baby boomers will need care in long-term facilities like nursing homes as stated by the BLS. States with the highest employment levels in this occupation are: California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

What are Some Other Common Names for Nursing Assistants?

There actually may be more names for nursing assistants than you realize. A common one is patient care technician or patient care associate (PCT or PCA). If you’ve spent any time in a hospital, you may also be familiar with the term “nursing orderly”—but there are also certified medication aides (CMAs), geriatric nursing assistants (GNAs) and licensed nursing assistants (LNAs). Although the names may be different, in general, the overall duties performed are very similar.

What Is a Patient Care Technician?

A patient care technician (PCT) is responsible for helping doctors and nurses with patient care, which involves performing various clinical, laboratory and administrative tasks.  The job description of a PCT is almost the same as that of a certified nursing assistant, but in some cases patient care technicians may have more clinical responsibility due to a greater level of technical skill. There are also not yet the same certification requirements for all PCTs—although some states (or employers) may require that you take the CNA exam.

Some examples of the types of duties that patient care technicians provide include:

  • Helping to ensure patient comfort and safety
  • Assisting patients with walking, bathing and eating
  • Measuring and recording temperature, pulse, weight and respiration rates
  • Collecting and analyzing blood samples
  • Preparing rooms and sterilize equipment
  • Managing patient records

If becoming a Certified Medical Assistant is not for you, but you still want a career in allied health, you may want to explore other allied health careers.

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