What is a CNA?
CNA can stand for ‘Certified Nurse Aide’ or ‘Certified Nursing Assistant’. In some states they even have different initials like in Ohio they use ‘STNA’ and in Vermont ‘LNA’.
So what does it all really mean? The basic idea is that a CNA is a healthcare professional that has had some official training or testing and is registered or certified by the state to provide care and assistance to patients within the state’s rules.
Who hires CNAs?
Nurse aides work in all kinds of healthcare settings. You will find CNAs working in hospitals, clinics, home health, and rehab centers. The most demand for CNAs is in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There is so much need with the aging population that you can often get a job at a nursing home and they will pay for your CNA education and all of your training.
What do CNA do? What is the work like?
What the job includes will vary a lot depending on what type of facility you are working in. The general job of Nursing Assistants is to help ill, disabled, elderly or weak people do the things they can’t do for themselves without help.
CNAs help people with their basic needs called ‘Activities of Daily Living’ (ADLs). You might assist people to get out of bed, to walk, to shower and to get dressed. CNAs also perform basic nursing procedures like taking vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
In some states and on some jobs you can get further education and training and be able to perform more complex nursing skills like doing EKGs, drawing blood for lab samples, giving patients medication and more.
How do you become a CNA?
Every state has their own specific requirements for becoming certified or registered as a CNA; however they have a lot a common.
Most states require you to take a CNA training program that is approved by the state. The training program must include classroom training as well as supervised clinical practice. Each state has a minimum number of hours required for CNA training, usually at least 75 and some require as high as 180 hours.
After you complete your CNA education you will have to take the state’s competency exam. Every state’s test includes a written exam as well as a skills examination where you will have to show your ability to perform some CNA tasks safely.
Many states, and some employers will also require some type of criminal background check or fingerprinting before you will be listed with the state’s registry.
How does the job market look for CNAs?
The short answer is ‘excellent’. The US Department of Labor says there are “numerous job openings and excellent job opportunities are expected”.
In their report they also say that job growth is higher than the average for all other jobs. The US has an aging population which means more need for retirement homes, assisted living facilities and other long-term care options all requiring more CNAs.
The need for CNAs is so great that you can often have your CNA training and testing paid for by your employer. If you pay for own training and then get a CNA job, some states even require the company to reimburse you for your CNA education.
Becoming a CNA is a great way to get into an entry level position in the healthcare field without going to college. You can find a job and start getting paid quickly. Another benefit if being a CNA is that many employers will pay for you to continue your education if you are interested in advancing your career even more. Many CNAs go on to become LPNs or Registered Nurses.