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We offer both traditional and online training programs that will prepare you for your state’s certification exam in as little as eight weeks. Choose a school and get free information today!

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In addition to receiving excellent pay, being a certified nurses aide is also a ‘feel good’ career choice because you are helping someone in need and, in turn, improving their quality of life.

Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified nursing assistants go by a variety of names depending on where they work and the state in which they are registered. Some of the different names include NA, or Nurse Aide, RNA, or registered nurse aide, GNA, or geriatric nurse aide, STNA, or state tested nurse aide, and LNA, or licensed nursing assistant.

No matter what the title is, a certified nursing assistant provides hands-on care to patients of all ages who are unable to care completely for themselves. This individual can work in a variety of healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, skilled nursing units, hospice agencies, Alzheimer’s units and rehabilitation facilities, where they will report directly to a licensed nurse. Certified nursing assistants provide important care, such as taking vital signs, providing bed baths, dressing and feeding patients, helping patients walk, transporting patients and even charting in some facilities. Work duties depend on the facility’s policies and on the exact certification that the individual holds. However, certified nursing assistants typically work as the eyes and ears of the supervising nurse by reporting patient findings back to the nurse.

The role of certified nursing assistant is rapidly growing at a rate faster than most other occupations. In fact, nursing assistant jobs are projected to increase by 17 percent between 2012 and 2022, ensuring that new nursing assistants will not struggle to find a job in most areas. Currently, the United States boasts 1.5 million nursing assistant jobs with the average certified nursing assistant making just over $25,000 per year.

Quick Facts

Highest Number of CNA Jobs

New York (101,030)
California (99,090)
Florida (86,280)

Highest CNA Wages in the USA

Alaska ($17.87)
Nevada ($15.86)
New York ($15.61)

Highest Elderly Population (Age 65+)

– Ohio (4,993,047)
– Illinois (3,791,544)
– Michigan (3,099,081)

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How to Become a CNA

Complete a state-approved CNA training program

Choosing a state-approved course ensures that students will meet all the necessary requirements for both classroom and clinical work to be able to take the state’s CNA examination as quickly as possible. The traditional route to becoming a CNA includes heading to a local community college or vocational school for a typical classroom setting. However, many students today use online classes to fit in better with their daily schedules and budgets. While online training is a great choice for busy individuals, traditional classroom training often provides more hands-on experience.

No matter which type of training a student chooses, state-approved training programs will include a certain number of classroom and clinical hours. The minimum for all states is 75 total hours with at least 16 hours of clinical training. However, many states require even more than this to meet their own requirements.

Register to take the CNA certification examination

Once students have completed the CNA program, they will need to apply to take the nurse aide certification examination. After applying, many students have to wait up to 30 days or more before they receive an examination time. The examination itself usually takes a few hours to complete and is composed of two sections. The knowledge section is typically performed with pencil and paper although some states use computer testing. It has 60 to 75 multiple-choice questions testing classroom knowledge. The second part of the examination is the clinical skills section, which typically tests between three to five clinical scenarios in front of a nurse evaluator using a mannequin or an actor.

Most examinations can be retaken up to three times before CNA training needs to be repeated. Fees usually range between $90 to $110. Many schools boast passage rates at 90 percent or above.

Apply for states Nurses Aide Registry

Each state has its own Nurse Aide Registry, which can often be found on the state’s Department of Health or Board of Nursing website. Applicants will need to pass a complete background check and often a criminal check. This is an important step for those who want to work as CNAs on a permanent basis or who want to work at long-term care facilities. Some states place CNAs on their online registries within a couple of days following successful examination completion; others may take up to two to three weeks.

Once an individual is on the registry, he or she will want to keep the license in good standing. Part of this includes having an excellent work ethic without any complaints of patient abuse, maltreatment or neglect. Each state has its own abuse registry that it uses to keep track of CNAs who have been accused of poor care.

Maintain active license status

Most states have an online registry that allows CNAs to verify that their licenses are active and in good standing. The registry may also list an expiration date. In most states, this is two years from the previous date of issuance. CNAs will need to renew their licenses prior to the expiration date to avoid having to retake training classes. This can often be done online or through the mail. Most states send out reminders approximately a month prior to the renewal date.

CNAs usually need to prove that they have worked at least eight hours in the prior two years. In addition, some states require up to 12 hours of continuing education every year to keep a license active. On the other hand, certain states do not have any requirements for maintaining an active license other than continuing to work as a paid CNA. Renewal is oftentimes free.

Transfering certification out-of-state

Every state practices reciprocity, which allows CNAs to transfer their licenses to another state. They will need to prove that their licenses are in good standing and that they are not listed on the state’s abuse registry. They may need to fulfill an additional background check and possibly a criminal check as well as fingerprinting in some states. Many states make the process quite simple and only need a simple application filled out and some verification of licensure from the previous state.

Most states do not require retaking the certification examination especially if the previous license is active and the CNA has worked at least eight hours in the past two years. In addition, there are often no fees associated with reciprocity although occasionally a small fee, such as $30, may be required for registry or for obtaining a paper certificate.

AN IN-DEPTH LOOK AT CNA CLASSES

Facility

CNA Requirements

Curriculum

Skills Acquired

Tuition & Reimbursement

The most common place to look for CNA training is at a traditional community college or vocational school where students will have the most hands-on experience and traditional classroom learning experiences. However, those who prefer to work around a hectic schedule or train in their own time can try an online school, which often work with local hospitals to provide a clinical experience. Students should ensure that an online program meets the demands of their own state for certification. Other national organizations, such as the American Red Cross, offer courses throughout the country. Finally, some hospitals and long-term care facilities provide free or highly discounted training to individuals that they have hired.

Students applying to a CNA training program will need to have a high school diploma or GED prior to enrolling. They may also need to take a basic English and math assessment test and orientation class before beginning CNA training. Most schools insist on a background and criminal check to ensure that students do not have a criminal history. Other schools require a full physical, an updated immunization record and a negative tuberculosis screening prior to starting clinicals. Most classes last between 4 to 12 weeks and cost approximately $1,500. 

All CNA training courses are required to have two parts. Students begin with CNA theory in the classroom where they will learn basic nursing skills, such as how to take vital signs and provide end-of-life care, as well as personal care skills, such as dressing, feeding, ambulating and bathing patients as well as providing appropriate skin care. They will also learn about basic disease processes, including how to care for cognitively impaired individuals. Students will then have a number of hours practicing these skills and learning hands-on skills at local healthcare facilities during the clinical portion of the CNA training. The minimum number of training hours for any state is 75 of which 16 must be spent in a clinical setting. However, many states require many more hours than this.

While theory is a major part of CNA training, the skills portion is really what will help a CNA be successful on the job. Some skills are practiced on fellow students or mannequins in the classroom. However, most skills are practiced during one’s clinical hours. Students will practice transferring patients from bed to chair, performing bed baths, making beds, using orthotic devices, protecting patient’s rights, assisting with range of motion exercises, helping with geriatric care, teaching patients self-care, orienting patients with cognitive impairment and helping with many activities of daily life. The clinicals are an excellent place for CNA students to practice excellent communication with both patients and nurses because this is a key facet in the work of an outstanding CNA.

Most CNA courses cost approximately $1,500 for a four to eight-week course. However, depending on the location in the country, some classes may cost less than $1,000. On the other hand, private schools may cost closer to $2,000. Typically, this price does not include the cost of textbooks, which can run up to a few hundred dollars for science and nursing-related textbooks. In addition, CNAs may need to purchase their own uniforms, which they may need to wear to class and will certainly need to wear to clinicals. In the case of students who are training at their own workplace, the uniforms may be provided by the employer. Those who are already employed as nurse aides may get some tuition reimbursement from the employer. Many CNA programs offer scholarships to qualified students.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of a certified nursing assistant?

A certified nursing assistant works in a healthcare setting, such as a hospital, skilled nursing facility or rehabilitation facility, to provide direct care to patients who are unable to care completely for themselves. They help with daily care tasks, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding and much more, and also provide vital emotional support when communicating with patients. They report directly to a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse and may even chart patient statistics.

Where can I find free CNA classes?

While most vocational and online schools charge a fee per credit hour for CNA training, some hospitals and other healthcare facilities provide free CNA training to individuals who are employed with the facility. This helps the student by allowing him or her to become more familiar with the working environment and also helps the facility find capable employees following completion of the program.

What is the Nurses Aide registry?

Each state has a nurse aide registry where individuals who have current and active CNA licenses and who meet state and federal nurse aide guidelines are listed. These registries are often found online, allowing other states and various employers to check quite easily on the certification of a potential employee. In states that have multiple levels of nurse aides, individuals may be listed on more than one nurse aide registry.

What are CNAs allowed to do?

The skills that CNAs are allowed to perform are regulated by individual states and healthcare facilities. In general, however, CNAs provide direct patient care, such as bathing, dressing, feeding and toileting patients, cleaning patient rooms, transporting patients to medical examinations, changing sheets and taking vital signs. Some states may also allow CNAs to pass some medications to patients and to chart vital signs. Each task is performed under the direct supervision of a nurse.

What are CNAs not allowed to do?

CNAs are not allowed to do tasks that fall under the realm and licensure of a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. While this may vary from state to state, it includes administering intravenous medications, starting IVs, assisting with direct post-operative care, charting physical assessments, assisting the doctor with diagnostic tests, teaching patients, creating patient care plans, operating certain types of medical equipment and taking a doctor’s orders.

What is private duty work?

Private duty CNA work may be an option for CNAs who are very compassionate and have an excellent rapport with patients. Private duty work may be found through an agency, and it is typically performed in a patient’s home by providing vital one-on-one care to homebound individuals. The private duty CNA is often the first line of help for a patient’s everyday home needs, such as ambulating, eating, dressing and bathing.

Are there options for financial aid?

The cost to attend CNA training may be greater than some students can handle. Many schools as well as professional nursing organizations offer scholarships to qualifying students. Scholarship applications often require the student to write an essay. Another option is Federal Student Aid, which can be easier to repay than private loans are. The Pell Grant is found at many community colleges, and the Workforce Investment Act is designed to help low-income individuals.

How can I find local CNA programs near me?

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