If you would like to enter into the challenging field of health care but are unsure if you want to invest a lot of time and effort into a full blown nursing degree, then a C.N.A training course may be just what you are looking for.
First of all, what is a CNA? C.N.A. stands for Certified Nurse’s Assistant and that is exactly what the responsibilities of the CNA embody. As a nurse aide you will assist other members of the health care team to provide safe and specialized health care to those in need in a professional health care setting. A C.N.A. must follow a strict code of practice. There are a myriad of opportunities available to you as nurse’s assistants are needed in various clinical settings and multiple fields of health care. A nursing assistant can find employment in a hospital, a hospice, an assisted care facility for the elderly, a nursing home, some specialty areas such as cardiology or dialysis or even a physician’s private practice. There are even travel positions available which can offer lucrative pay packages and benefits and sometimes even travel to exotic places. A CNA is a necessary member of the health care team and employment can be an excellent start of a career in health care.
Watch this video on youtube here: How to become a Certified Nursing Assistant
Enrolling in a CNA Class
If you are considering enrolment in a CNA class then there are a few requirements that you should meet. Most often, you should be a high school graduate or have obtained a G.E.D. Most states will require that you are at least 18 years of age and all states will require a criminal background check as some training facilities require a background check and drug testing prior to enrollment. Almost all employers will require a background check before consideration to hire. If you have been convicted of a crime in the past, it may or may not affect your ability to enroll or to find employment, but if you have committed a violent crime in your past, this may inhibit your future employment or may prevent enrollment in a training program. It really depends on the laws for your state and the severity and nature of the offense.
In the class section you will learn how to obtain vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure and heart rate and will be required to be familiar with what is normal and what is abnormal. You will turn the immobile patient and you will assist with bathing, feeding, ambulation and even shaving for those who are unable to do for themselves due to illness, immobility, cognitive state, or age. A nurse aide spends the most time with a patient and plays a vital role in recognizing changes in a person’s medical status and is often most familiar with a patient’s personal wants and requirements. You will learn how to chart these observations and note a patient’s status, vitals and your duties performed as you performed them in order to communicate directly with other members of the health care team. You will be required to report any changes to the nurse in charge. These are the basic duties of the C.N.A.
Free CNA Training Options
If you choose to enroll in a C.N.A. program you will need to know where to start. Most community colleges and technical schools do offer this. If you require financial assistance to pay for your tuition there are several resources available to you in your state. Several health care facilities and nursing homes offer an on the job training in which you can train in that facility and get paid while you train, then when you complete the training you work for that facility under contract for a fixed amount of time. You can also receive free CNA training via Job Corps which is a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. To find assistance at Job Corps you must meet certain age and financial requirements and be a legal citizen of the U.S. or legal U.S. resident.
Check out our Free CNA Options by state page.
CNA Exam Guide
When you finally settle on when, where, and how you will complete your training, the program itself is generally 6 – 12 weeks. During this time, you will learn your basic skills and then practice them in a clinical setting. You will be required to pass a written test which will assess your knowledge of medical terminology, safety regulations, and your scope of practice in general. You may want to use practice exams as a guide. This will not only give you an idea of what will be asked of you but it will also help you to feel better prepared as to what will be asked on the actual exam. You should study your text and focus on understanding what you are reading. Ask lots of questions and practice your skills over and over until you are comfortable performing them. Practice taking blood pressures and other basic duties on your family members or class mates to help you to strengthen your skills. You also will be subjected to a clinical test where you will be asked to perform the skills you have learned correctly and safely. This may include performing a blood pressure check, using proper body mechanics while moving a patient or making a bed properly. Upon completion of the training course you will be required to pass a state exam in order to obtain legal certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant. There may be more than one correct answer on the exam but you must choose the best answer. Focus on safety, terminology, state health care requirements for the C.N.A. and again, take practice exams online or ask your instructor to direct you to a resource for practice exams.
CNA Certification and Reciprocity
C.N.A. certifications are transferable from state to state but there is a process to be followed. This is called reciprocity. It is the means by which a nursing assistant can transfer his/her certification to another state. If you obtained your certification in Florida but now want to move to Idaho, you must apply for certification in Idaho (or whichever state you wish to transfer to.) The state then reviews and endorses your credentials. Each state varies on their requirements, so do some research on the mandates for that particular state prior to making a move in order to avoid a lapse in certification. You may be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license, social security card, and proof of your current certifications.
Finding a Job as a CNA
Once you have obtained certification for your state you will want to seek out employment. Try to seek a position that is best suited for you. As an entry level C.N.A. do not apply for a position beyond your experience level. You should start in a position that will nurture your skills and increase your confidence. You will be comfortable sooner than you think. Present a well thought out resume that clearly outlines your skills and what you hope to achieve. The resume is a potential employer’s first glimpse of you and can make a lasting impression. Before you graduate the Nurse Aide program you should learn how to put together a resume and this is often outlined in the classroom setting. If not, there are several references online including this website and there are several in books that can help you prepare a resume best suited to your needs. If you are called for an interview, be on time, be honest and be clear about what you are seeking in an employer. Dress appropriately and never belittle a former employer or reveal too many personal details. Discuss salary openly and be prepared to start on the lower end of the pay scale initially, but be sure to ask your potential employer about future advancement opportunity. Nursing Assistants salary can be from $18,000 – $32,000 a year depending on your location and experience level.
What Next after CNA?
Several C.N.A.s use their certification as a stepping stone to a LPN or RN degree. As a Nurse Aide you have the opportunity to learn terminology and gain an invaluable knowledge base that is beneficial when considering a degree in Nursing. If you choose to pursue a degree in Nursing, you will have a head start in clinical experience and should have an extensive knowledge of disease processes and patient care.
Working as a C.N.A. can be a rewarding and challenging career option. It is a relatively fast certification to obtain and is available to most anyone who is interested in a career in the field of health care. If you think you may be interested in a position in health care then a C.N.A. position may be a good place to start.
Written by Stephanie Dubenezic RN, LPN