In light of the licensed nursing shortage, many states are adopting unique CNA programs to train certified nursing assistants or CNAs to perform sophisticated medical duties and take on highly complex responsibilities in patient care. Although not all states have stepped up and designed extended training for higher achieving CNAs, many are currently enacting legislation and are expecting their board of nursing to comply with state-approved programs and certification examinations. CNA specialists enjoy higher salaries and more diverse duties and interesting assignments.
The Duties and Responsibilities of the CNA Specialist
In addition to performing basic patient care, CNAs are finding extraordinary careers as specialists in long-term-care facilities, hospitals and assisted living facilities. CNAs are the backbone of nursing care and many are defining the new role of the nursing assistant.
Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Homes
Long-term care providers are harnessing the power of their CNA staff by providing special training for the following duties:
- Pass and administer common medications that do not require special nursing assessment
- Perform blood sugar finger sticks and may assist the patient to inject insulin
- Apply topical medications to patients’ skin
- Precept new CNAs in the program and on the nursing floor
- Perform lab specimen collection and blood draws
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities are also training CNAs to provide a higher level of care for their independent residents. In the past, assisted living facilities carried limited state licenses that would not accommodate residents that required assistance with taking their medication. Currently, several states are considering or allowing the help of specially trained CNAs to pass medications, apply topical medications and take blood sugars in assisted facilities. The CNA specialist helps residents live independently longer and avoid the need for entering a nursing home.
Hospitals and Medical Centers
Numerous states now allow CNAs to be specially trained and pass medications, perform finger sticks, collect lab specimens and insert urinary catheters. Due to a successful CNA medication program at the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Centers throughout the country in 1999, many hospitals are following suit and training their CNAs for specialized programs.
States that Provide Extended Training and Program Requirements for CNAs
Depending on the state of your practice, states that provide special programs for CNAs require six months to one year of full-time work experience, a 45 to a 100-hour training program in medication administration, the completion of skills lab training and a strong passing grade on the state competency or state board examination. States that allow extended duties and special training for CNAs include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Excellent Opportunities for CNAs
As a CNA who passes medications, performs complex patient care and collects lab specimens, you may be licensed or certified in your state of practice. CNA specialists are usually titled as certified medication assistant, licensed medication assistant or certified medication technician. In addition to higher pay and a more specialized position, you can make a higher salary, and in some states, use your experience as a high-level CNA to receive a credit to further your career in healthcare or nursing.