Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are a vital part of the healthcare team. CNAs perform delegated nursing tasks under the supervision of a licensed nurse. As part of their comprehensive care plan, they focus on the physical, social, and emotional needs of their patients and their families. CNAs are employed in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, community care facilities, and as home health aides in patient’s homes.
Now that we have your attention, let’s take a moment to explore more about this exciting and rewarding career path. At CNAtraininghelp.com, we offer a comprehensive resource for individuals who are seeking a career as a CNA. Use this site as a stepping stone to help catapult you toward your career in the medical profession. We’re here to help guide you along the way. As you continue reading, you will see information regarding actual duties of CNAs, education requirements, free training opportunities, useful study guides to help you pass the certification exam, and tips on how to land your dream job as a certified nursing assistant.
What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?
CNAs provide basic care to patients in a variety of settings, roles and responsibilities can vary depending on certain states and place of employment; however, most CNAs typically perform the following duties:
- Measure and record patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature
- Clean and bathe patients
- Provide personal hygiene needs to patients, such as brushing their hair and trimming their nails.
- Help patients use the toilet and dress
- Turn patients in bed and help transfer them between beds and wheelchairs
- Provide dietary care, such as serving meals, helping patients to eat if necessary, and recording how much they eat
- Record patients’ health concerns and provide that information to nurses
- Provide adequate infection control to help eliminate the spread of germs
- Provide emotional support to patients and their families
In addition to physical care, providing emotional support to patients plays a key role in every CNAs daily duties. CNAs must be able to communicate effectively to address the needs of their patients. The health care profession can also be stressful at times. Fear and loneliness often accompanies sickness and pain. With this in mind, a successful CNA must strive constantly to focus on the core values of compassion, patience, and empathy.
As mentioned earlier, your responsibilities as a CNA can vary depending on where you work. For example, in nursing homes, CNAs are principal caretakers, and in this capacity, may have additional duties compared to those employed in other settings.
To help understand in depth about the CNA job description, you can read further on CNA Job Description – Duties and Responsibilities.
How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant
The typical training program includes knowledge and skills required to provide basic nursing care. The below list of examples are topics covered by most programs:
- Emergency procedures
- Measurement of vital signs
- Patient hygiene
- Anatomy & physiology
- Medical terminology
- Proper bed making
- Moving patients with a gait belt
- Patient exercises
- Patient communication
- Basic nutrition
- Preventing falls
- Preventing infection
- Caring for the dying patient
- Assisting with wound care
The typical program lasts about 6 to 12 weeks of full-time study; however, program lengths can vary depending on whether the student chooses to enroll full or part time. Online instruction is also offered by some institutions for part of the training. Tuition typically ranges between $400 and $1000 depending on the type of school. Private schools are typically more expensive than public schools. Financial aid and grants as well as free training opportunities also exist.
Free educational programs and training may be found by investigating a variety of options. One option for free training is by applying for an Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you are found to be eligible, this money used for education does not have to be paid back to the government. Also check with the financial aid department of your prospective school for other potential scholarship and grant programs. There are a wide variety of programs available due to the current demand for CNAs. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides funds to more than one hundred different colleges to help make CNA training programs more affordable. For additional free training programs, read further on Training via Scholarships and Grants.
The Workforce Investment Act also provides free nursing assistant training to students who qualify. This legislation was created to help individuals have access to training in order to begin a new career. The government has established “One-Stop Career Centers to help candidates determine if they qualify for this free training program. To learn more about the Workforce Investment Act CNA training read our guide on Training Through the Workforce Investment Act.
The Job Corps is another potential source of free training for CNAs. This program is funded and operated by the United States Department of Labor and provides free technical training to students between the ages of 16 and 24 who qualify for the program. To learn more about this opportunity, read the Training From the Job Corps.
To investigate additional sources of free education, contact long-term care facilities and nursing homes in your area to see if they will pay for your training or reimburse you if you agree to work for them upon completion of the CNA certification exam. The section on Training via Nursing Care Facilities will help shine some light on this opportunity.
Passing the CNA Certification Examination
After completing a state-approved nursing program, students will sit for the CNA competency certification exam. Once nursing assistants pass the certification examination, they will be placed on a state registry and will be eligible for employment as a CNA.
The CNA certification examination is composed of a written test and a skills test. The written section of the test has multiple-choice questions related to information that was taught during your training. For the skills section, you must perform specific skills related to your role as a nursing assistant. The allocated time for the test is typically two hours.
If you paid attention during training and study hard, you should do well on the certification exam. However, if you are not successful on your first attempt you can retest. OBRA allows three attempts to successfully complete the certification examination.
There are also CNA skills videos and an examiners checklist, which will guide you through each step of the skills that are required during the examination. The written exam part of the study guide details topics that will be covered during the written section of the examination. There are also practice CNA tests that will allow you to test your knowledge.
Finding a Job as a CNA
Once you successfully navigate through training and ace the CNA certification exam, it’s time to begin your career. Prior to your job search, you will need to carefully construct a well-written resume and cover letter outlining your education and any prior work experience. Your resume and cover letter will tell your potential employer why you are a good candidate for the job. Your resume should showcase any potential talents which may separate you from the crowd. To get an idea on how to build a resume and see an example, read How to Write a Certified Nursing Assistant Resume.
Once you have written your resume and cover letter, it’s now time to begin your job search. Many schools have career counselors or job placement services that allow students to use as part of their education program. Other sources of potential job leads include:
- Newspaper ads
- Local state employment services
- Hospital recruiters
- Internet job sites
It may also help to network with other students from your CNA training program to see if they have found jobs in the local area. Check out our CNA Jobs section for reputable job sites.
The final step in the application process is the job interview. During the interview, a potential employer will have a chance to get to know you and evaluate you as a candidate for the job. Prior to the interview, prepare yourself by rehearsing your answers to some of the following common questions:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What are your career goals?
- What are you doing to reach these goals?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why should we hire you?
These are just a few potential questions that you may be asked during the interview. In addition to preparation for the questions during the interview, your appearance also makes an impression on your potential employer. You must appear neat, clean, and well-groomed. Also pay attention to your body language during the interview. Remember to sit up straight and make eye contact wit the interviewer. Speak clearly and with confidence. When the interview ends, thank the interviewer and shake hands. You can conclude by saying that you look forward to hearing from him or her in the future. For additional interview tips read CNA Job Interview Tips.