A CNA also referred to as a certified nurse assistant is an unlicensed personnel care worker who provides basic long-term care to patients who are dealing with physical injuries/disabilities, sickness and mental illness, as well as providing assistance to the elderly.
As the name suggests CNA’s (certified nurse assistants) provide additional help and assistance to LPN’s (licensed practical nurses), RN’s (registered nurses) and physicians in order to provide patients who are unable to properly care for themselves with a better overall healthcare experience.
CNA’s can be found working in a variety of healthcare settings including public hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facility and private clinics.
Because certified nurse assistants aren’t licensed nurses they often end up working under the supervision of a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or other health care professional.
Job Description & Responsibilities
CNA’s can work in a diversity of healthcare settings where they provide daily care to elderly, sick or rehabilitating patients who need additional medical attention and/or supervision.
While individuals can become CNA’s fairly quickly (6 – 16 weeks) the training they receive allows them to provide day to day care to a wide variety of patients.
In fact some of the daily responsibilities and tasks CNA’s may encounter throughout their shift include:
- Providing basic bedside care such as helping patients get in & out of bed as well as dressing, bathing, cleaning and feeding patients who are unable to perform these tasks themselves
- Monitoring and reporting abnormal patient behavior/medical abnormalities
- Handling and delivering patient medication
- Taking and recording patient vital measurements
- Emptying and replacing catheter bags
- Providing emergency basic life-support (ex. CPR/CPRO & AED)
- Maintaining a sanitary and safe working/living environment
- Cleaning patient and medical equipment
By managing many of the day to day tasks that a registered nurse or physician would have to manage frees up additional time so that they can attend to more severe matters and focus on patients that need a higher level of treatment and care.
CNA’s are a critical part of the healthcare system and their caring hearts and attention to patient care makes them an indispensable asset for both patients and medical staff.
The emotional/social aspects of CNA care
While CNA’s manage many of the day to day tasks that patients need for adequate care they are always aware of the fact that they are helping people on a deep emotional level.
In fact because of the close relationship CNA’s share with their patients maintaining patient privacy is of the utmost importance.
Creating an emotional bond can be extremely rewarding and being able to help others in need of long-term medical care is what CNA’s do best.
This is a position for individuals who have lot’s of patience, a strong desire to help other through their medical ailments and want to provide others with a better experience.
Becoming a CNA is also a great way for someone who is inexperienced in the medical field to learn the ins and outs of patient care and get a feel for the career before they invest a lot of time into working towards a more diverse medical role such as becoming a registered nurse.
How to become a CNA
Those who are interested in becoming certified nurse assistants should have a real desire to help elderly and physically/mentally ill patients who need assistance completing their daily tasks and must be patient when dealing with others as taking care of people under these conditions is often a process that takes time and caring.
In addition to being mentally and emotionally interested in being a CNA indviduals also have to be physically capable of lifting, moving, caring for and cleaning patients as this a normal routine for certified nurse assistants.
If you’re looking to work in this field purely for reasons unrelated to providing great care to others then there’s a good chance this career is not for you because if your hearts is not in your work then you may end up disappointed.
As far as certification goes CNA programs generally take 6 – 16 weeks to complete and offer a combination of classroom coursework, lab practice and in field experience.
Individuals looking to take an available CNA program must have at least either their Diploma, GED or equivalent to qualify for the program.
During the program students will learn basic skills in patient care, medical monitoring, emergency life care and the technical aspects of CNA work.
Depending on the college, university, technical/vocational school or foundation (i.e. the American Red Cross) classroom material may be taught by either experienced registered nurses or other licensed nurse professionals.
Once students finish the CNA program they will then be required to take a state exam in order to earn their certification.
In addition to taking the certification exam some states may also require students to achieve a specified number of work hours before they are able to take and pass the exam.
Some CNA programs will waive their students tuition with the agreement that the student will work at their (or a related) facility for a specified amount of time after becoming certified.
Those who wish to pay for their own certification may incur costs of around $1,000 – $3,000 (prices will vary) depending on where they choose to study and earn their certification.
Because of the nature of working as a CNA candidates must pass a background check and drug test before being hired to work as a certified nurse assistant.
Those who are thinking of becoming a certified nurse assistant will be happy to know that the current job growth for this field is expected to increase significantly over the next decade and will continue to grow as more and more people go into retirement and become dependent on nurse assistants to help them with their daily lives.
In terms of work schedule CNA’s generally work 40 hour shifts, however some may choose or be required to work part-time hours based on their personal/work needs.
Because CNA’s care for their patients on a daily basis they can expect to work morning, evening and night shifts along with weekends and holidays, however their specific schedule may vary and is dependent on their employer.
Some CNA’s may negotiate specific work hours for personal or education related activities, and may be granted more lenient schedules based on the healthcare centers staffing needs.
For those who are thinking of entering the nursing field becoming a certified nurse assistant is a great way to get their foot in the door and decide if this type of career path is right for them.
In fact many healthcare professionals such as registered nurses, nurse practitioners and even physicians start off as CNA’s as a way to test their interest in the medical field so that they can make an informed decision about their future in healthcare without immediately putting a lot of time and energy into it.
While becoming a CNA is a great way help others there are some limitations as far as career opportunities and salary goes.
Because CNA’s have not received the same level of education and training as registered nurses for example it can be quite difficult to move up into more senior or specialized roles.
In addition to this CNA’s may also find it difficult to increase their salary to a significant degree.
CNA’s can definitely earn bonus and pay raises, however the inability to move into specialized or managerial roles does limit their career opportunities.
With that said CNA’s are in a great position to help others in need of medical care and can be an extremely rewarding field.
One of the biggest benefits of becoming a CNA is the ability to test your assumptions on whether or not healthcare (at least in this type of setting) is right for you.
As mentioned earlier prior to working towards a degree as a registered nurse you can quickly enter the healthcare field as a CNA, gain critical experience and insights about what it’s like to provide direct medical care to patients and determine whether or not nursing is the right career choice for you before making a large emotional, financial and time investment into an unknown profession.
The importance of CNA’s in healthcare
CNA’s serve a major role in healthcare and are the day to day care givers of patients who are dealing with long-term medical situations that leave them in need of quality medical care and assistance.
CNA’s are also the backbone of registered nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals as they reduce their workload so that they can spend more time responding to emergencies, critical situations and other tasks that require additional training and experience.
As the economy continues to grow and people continue to age the role of CNA’s will only increase and their presence will become even more central to providing proper, quality patient care, especially to those in need of long-term care.