How to Become a CNA | Certified Nurse Assistant

Working as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) is rewarding for those passionate about providing daily care to others.

It allows nurses to enter healthcare, earn an income and determine whether becoming a registered nurse is right for them.

Fortunately, the path to becoming a certified nurse assistant is relatively straightforward.

However, it’s essential to take the proper steps to obtain a good education and meet state approval requirements.

Four Steps to Become a CNA

  1. Acquire your GED or High School Diploma
  2. Join/Pass a State-Approved CNA Training Program
  3. Complete Clinical Training
  4. Pass the State-Approved CNA Certification Exam

Overall, there are four fundamental steps to becoming a CNA.

The following section explores how to become a CNA, how long it takes to earn certification, and potential career opportunities.

1. Acquire your GED or High School Diploma

The first step toward becoming a CNA is to earn your GED or high school diploma.

That said, those pursuing CNA training do not require a college degree.

As a result, most individuals can participate in the CNA program after obtaining their diplomas.

For those without a GED or high school diploma, it is necessary to finish this step to gain acceptance into a CNA program.

Fortunately, there are numerous resources online to help students study and earn their GED if required.

2. Join/Pass a State-Approved CNA Training Program

The next step is to join and pass a state-approved CNA training program.

Students can pick from multiple colleges/universities and trade schools offering CNA courses.

However, students must make sure the courses are state-approved to earn certification.

Some programs are also available online for those who require more flexibility and are confident about doing well with self-study.

Due to online limitations, some students participating in online courses may lack particular aspects of in-class education.

Pursuing in-class training is beneficial for those who want the best education possible.

It ensures educators properly educate and test students concerned with obtaining sufficient training.

For more information on CNA training American Red Cross and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing provide additional resources and details.

3. Complete in-Person Clinical Training

Online and in-class CNA training programs require students to complete the state’s clinical hours requirements.

As a result, students must work specific hours at an in-person facility before earning their certification.

Clinical training ensures students obtain proper training to maintain a safe environment and care for patients.

Most in-person clinical training occurs at hospitals or healthcare facilities to ensure students understand their daily duties.

4. Pass the State-Approved CNA Certification Exam

The final step to becoming a certified nurse assistant is to pass the state-approved CNA certification examination.

Students receive up to three completion opportunities depending on the state’s regulations.

Students who do not pass the exam after a given number of times must retrain before participating in the exam again.

Besides that, nurses must maintain work to maintain their certification.

For instance, CNAs who do not work for two years in Pennsylvania must retake the exam to maintain certification.

Educational Overview

Those becoming CNA must have a Diploma, GED, or equivalent to qualify for the CNA program.

CNAs do not require a college diploma to provide primary medical care or work as healthcare providers.

Once you’ve obtained your diploma, pursue CNA training at a state-approved CNA program.

CNA programs generally take 4 – 12 weeks to complete and offer a mixture of classroom coursework, lab practice, and field experience.

Students learn basic skills in patient care, medical monitoring, emergency life care, and the technical aspects of CNA work.

Experienced registered nurses or other licensed nurse professionals provide training throughout the course.

Once students finish the CNA program, they must take a state exam to earn certification.

In addition to the certification exam, some states require a specified number of clinical hours before the final exam.

Finally, candidates must pass a background check and drug test before becoming certified nurse assistants.

Free CNA Training

Students looking for free CNA training find opportunities at local facilities that provide CNA training and hire CNAs.

These facilities may waive students’ tuition if they work at the facility for a specified period after becoming certified.

That said, it’s essential to consult the program to determine if they’ll cover fees as part of an employment arrangement.

CNA training costs around $500 – $3,000, depending on the program and state.

Red Cross Nurse Assistant Training

The red cross offers nurse assistant training for aspiring healthcare professionals.

Students learn primary medical care necessary to ensure long-term patients receive proper assistance.

The course includes theory and skills practice, critical thinking, decision making, team concepts, and other critical skills.

Besides that, Red Cross offers online test prep to help students practice and prepare for examinations.

The program lasts 4 – 8 weeks and does an excellent job preparing students.

The Red Cross is also a great way to vet certified training providers and ensure you obtain an excellent education.

Using the American Red Cross program isn’t necessary, but it’s a safe option for students unsure which training to take.

Mental and Physical Requirments

Certified nurse assistants must genuinely desire to help others with daily medical assistance.

Many CNAs work with the elderly and physically/mentally ill due to their physical/mental limitations.

As a result, patience, kindness, time, and consideration are necessary skills.

In addition to a positive mentality, CNAs must be qualified to perform physical duties routinely.

For instance, CNAs spend most days feeding, bathing, cleaning, and lifting patients.

They also assist with mobility exercises, transportation, and other physical duties.

Therefore, the physical aspects of patient care are just as critical as the mental/psychological aspects.

Job Responsibilities

Certified nurse assistants have numerous responsibilities they perform daily.

These responsibilities range from educating patients and families to providing routine physical assistance.

CNAs must have excellent communication, a compassionate mindset, physical aptitude, and organizational skills.

They’re routinely responsible for assisting patients with a wide range of movements.

It includes transporting patients, assisting with feeding, bathing, cleaning, and helping with mobility exercises.

CNAs must also maintain a clean, safe, and sanitary work environment and work well under the management of a registered nurse or supervisor.

CNA Responsibilities

  • Assist patients with movement
  • Help patients with daily tasks (feeding, bathing, cleaning, etc.)
  • Transporting patients
  • Monitoring patient vital signs
  • Basic wound care
  • Maintain a clean, safe, and sanitary environment
  • Documenting information
  • Answering phone calls
  • Managing and gathering supplies

Certified nurse assistants perform numerous other responsibilities within their scope of practice.

In some cases, state regulations also affect what CNAs can and can’t do at work.

Read certified nurse assistants vs. registered nurses to learn more about the difference between these two professions.

How Long is CNA Training?

Most students complete the CNA program relatively quickly.

It takes approximately 4 – 12 weeks to finish CNA training.

However, some institutions provide instruction for up to 16 weeks.

The time to complete the course depends on the institution, full-time or part-time status, and state requirements.

Full-time students may expect a time requirement of up to 40 hours per week to complete coursework on time.

To become certified, students must also complete clinical training and take the state exam.

After completing coursework and clinical training, it’s up to the student to complete the state exam to work quickly.

Is it Hard to Become a CNA?

Becoming a CNA is relatively easy.

Aspiring CNAs do not need a college degree or advanced education, and students complete coursework relatively quickly.

However, they must possess a GED or diploma to participate in a CNA program.

Once in the program, students learn the ins and outs of CNA work and patient care.

Coursework is approximately 40 hours per week.

At the end of the program, students take a state exam to become certified.

The CNA program is one of the most accessible programs for those interested in entering the healthcare profession.

Comparatively, LPNs need up to a year to become licensed, and registered nurses require 2 – 4 years in a nursing program.

Career Opportunities and Outlook

The job growth for CNAs will increase significantly over the next decade as people retire and depend on nurse assistants to help with daily tasks.

Numerous CNAs work part-time hours or up to 40 hours per week.

However, some facilities require CNAs to work overtime during shortages or emergencies.

Because CNAs care for patients daily, they work morning, evening, and night shifts.

They also work weekends and holidays.

With that said, specific schedules vary and are dependent on employer needs.

Some CNAs negotiate specific work hours for personal or education-related activities.

For those considering registered nursing, becoming a CNA helps decide whether healthcare is the right career path.

Numerous licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners start as CNAs.

It allows them to test their interest in the medical field to make an informed decision about their future in healthcare.

Moreover, CNAs gain first-hand medical experience quickly without spending years obtaining a degree.

Career Limitations

While becoming a CNA is a great way to help others, there are some limitations on career opportunities and salary.

Because CNAs have not received the same education and training as registered nurses, moving into more senior or specialized roles is challenging.

In addition, some CNAs find it challenging to increase their wages considerably.

CNAs can earn bonuses, overtime, and pay raise. However, the inability to move into more specialized or advanced roles limits career opportunities.

That said, CNAs are in a great position to help others needing medical care, and it’s an advantageous field.

One of the most significant benefits of becoming a CNA is testing whether healthcare is a suitable profession.

Before pursuing a registered nurse degree, you can quickly enter the healthcare field as a CNA.

That way, you’ll gain critical experience and insights about providing medical care to patients.

It also reduces your emotional, financial, and time investment if you don’t enjoy the profession.

For instance, It takes 4 – 12 weeks of training, a brief clinical training assessment, and a state exam to become a CNA.

It requires 2 – 4 years of education, prerequisite courses, and passing the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse.