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Congratulations on your choice to pursue the career of a Certified Nursing Assistant! You are well on your way to enriching the lives of those you come in contact with through your compassion and help to those with medical needs. A CNA is a vital asset to the medical field, and the care of patients across the country. If you are wondering how to become a CNA and are considering pursuing a job as a CNA, the next step is to learn how to get there. Simplified, there are 10 steps to becoming a CNA:

How to Become CNA Certified

  1. Complete high school diploma or GED.
  2. Find a Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance (at a local college, hospital, technical school, or Red Cross).
  3. Check to see if there are prerequisites before enrolling (i.e. CPR, First Aid, Medical Terminology class etc.).
  4. Complete any prerequisites before enrolling (the program personal can give you advice on where to find/take prerequisite classes).
  5. Enroll in Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance.
  6. Complete course work in program (typically 75 hours of in-class time).
  7. Complete clinical hours under licensed supervision (typically 16-40 hours in a hospital or nursing home setting).
  8. Pass the Certification Exam.
  9. Acquire Nursing Assistance License.
  10. Apply for work in the exciting field of Certified Nursing Assistance!

Requirements to Become a CNA

To become a CNA, or Certified Nursing Assistant, you must go through CNA classes or a training program. Through CNA classes you will learn the skills required of a Nurse Aide. To enroll in a CNA program you need to find a local college, technical school, hospital, or Red Cross that offers a Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance. There are also CNA classes offered online. Some programs require prerequisites, or courses you need to have taken prior to enrolling in the certification program. Some of these prerequisites may be classes such as CPR, First Aid, Medical Terminology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Check with the specific CNA program and ask if they have prerequisites you need to fulfill before enrolling in their specific program. Some CNA classes may also require a background check and/or a TB test prior to enrollment. All programs require you to have a high school diploma or GED before enrolling in the course.

The CNA training itself is not all you need. A career as a CNA requires someone who has a good work ethic, who has the desire to help people and is very compassionate and patient. Empathy and patience are two highly valued attributes to medical professionals when looking to hire CNA’s. Not only that, but you need to be able to communicate well, both with your patients and the nurses and doctors who rely on you for information about the patients. A keen eye is a strong asset. Often a CNA is relied upon to be the eyes and the ears of the nurses and doctors. Behavioral and medical changes in a patient need to be communicated to those who are responsible for the health and wellbeing of each patient.

Timeline to Become a CNA

Typically, CNA certification programs have 3 main parts. The first part of the CNA classes is usually taught by a registered nurse, or RN. During this portion of your CNA training you will learn the basic patient care duties. You will learn how to take patients vital signs (temperature, blood pressure etc.), how to assist patients with care such as eating and bathing, how to transfer patients such as from a bed to a wheel-chair, the proper procedures of dispense medication, bandage application, communication with supervising nurses in regards to patient care, and documentation of all events related to patient care. These skills are the primary job responsibilities of a CNA. Another portion of the CNA classes covers health laws and medical ethics of patient care. Typically this portion of the CNA program is 75-hours in the classroom.

The next part of the program is your clinical experience. You will practice the skills that you acquired during your classes in a medical setting such as a hospital or nursing home. Typically a program requires 16-40 hours of clinical experience, in which you have a licensed supervisor. During this time you are able to get hands-on-experience and a feel for what the job of a CNA entails. Some people find long-term job positions through their clinical experience if they have proven to be a valuable asset and there is a need for employees. This portion of your training is much more hands-on than the first CNA classes you will take.

The final part of the certification program is a CNA exam. The exam covers the material that you learned in your CNA training program. It covers the material from the text-books in your course work, as well as the hands-on skills you need to be able to perform, such as taking someone’s blood pressure. This exam can be intimidating to some, however, there are many practice tests available on-line and often through the specific program you are enrolled in to help you prepare. The exam is done in two parts; the clinical exam shows what you have learned in the hands-on CNA training by you demonstrating your skills. The theoretical exam is the written portion of the exam, which demonstrates your head-knowledge from attending CNA classes in your area.

After CNA Classes – License Certification Progress

During your CNA classes, your program advisor will walk you through some of the steps in the CNA license process. In short, there is a CNA licensing application that needs to be sent in to the state. This application will also need to contain verification from your program that you completed the requirements for CNA certification. Typically you will also need to have a background check, medical exam and fingerprints registered with the department of safety in your state, pay a registration fee, and then wait for your approval from your state’s Nursing Board. Remember that your CNA license will need to be renewed yearly, or you may need to re-take CNA classes or training programs to regain certification status.

Certified Nursing Assistant Jobs

Once you have your certification you can start applying for Certified Nursing Assistant jobs. Typically you will have an easier time finding a CNA job in a nursing home as an entry level Nurse Aide. These jobs are very demanding, which is why the turnover is quite high. However, a job as a Certified Nursing Assistant can also be very rewarding as you are working with people who desperately need good, compassionate care. As our elderly population rises in this country, so will the demand for people in the CNA jobs position. As most facilities that a CNA works in are open 24/7 and the patients require round-the-clock care, you will be able to apply for various shifts. You may, however, be required to work varying shifts as well, and you may not be exempt from working weekends and holidays in most cases.

Finally, your job as a CNA will most likely be very demanding, physically, emotionally and mentally. It is important, therefore, to take care of yourself. When lifting patients, remember your training, and lift properly to prevent injury. When not working, maintain your health by eating right and exercising, this will also help you maintain your energy at work. Also, find activities outside work that re-energize you in order to maintain mental stamina, patience, and empathy for the people you are working with during your shifts. As a CNA, you will be a valuable member of the health care team, working towards health and well-being of the patient. Take care of yourself so that you can adequately care for others and succeed at your CNA job.