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Career Advancement for CNAs

Certified nursing assistants are responsible for the care of patients' quality of life and must be responsible, communicative, patient, and understanding, as they are the link between patients and nurses. This article explains ways that CNAs can advance their careers.

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Career Advancement for CNAs

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the bridge between patients and nursing staff. They are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent, and healthcare experience is preferred. All states require CNAs to be licensed, which can be achieved after completing an approved learning program and other requirements, such as continuing education and a criminal background check. There are numerous opportunities for CNA advancement, which involve continuing education and practical experience.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)* Certificates or Education
Occupational Therapy Assistant/Aide $56,690 28% Associate's degree
Physician Assistant $104,860 37% Master's degree
Licensed Practical Nurse $45,030 12% Postsecondary nondegree award
Registered Nurse $70,000 15% Postsecondary nondegree award
Medical Assistant $32,480 29% High-school diploma or equivalent

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Information

Occupational Therapy Assistant/Aide

Occupational Therapy (OT) Assistants/Aides work under the direction of occupational therapists, assisting patients with therapeutic activities, teaching patients how to use special equipment, and performing clerical tasks, such as recording patient progress and billing. To become an OT aide, you usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training. OT assistants usually require an associate's degree from an approved program, which requires at least two years of study, practical work experience. Most OT assistants and aides must have CPR and BLS (basic life support) certification, as well.

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) enhance healthcare in medical settings nationwide by diagnosing, treating, and managing patient health concerns; doing clinical research; and performing procedures and tests. PAs usually have a master's degree from an approved program, which often involves two or more years of full-time study and healthcare experience, such as in nursing or emergency medicine. All states require PAs to have a license, so you must also pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and work alongside a licensed physician. To maintain a PA license, you must complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years and recertification every 10 years.

Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse

Depending on the state you live in, your duties as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN) will vary. LPNs/LVNs work in many different settings and are responsible for providing basic medical care, such as maintaining patient records, assisting doctors or registered nurses with procedures, running IVs, and monitoring patient responses to medication. All states require potential LPNs/LVNs to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) in order to receive the required license, often after completing a state-approved practical educational program.

Registered Nurse

Registered nurses (RNs) are responsible for monitoring other healthcare workers, such as CNAs and LPNs/LVNs. They can work in a variety of settings and usually have a specialization, such as gerontology or pediatric oncology. Every state requires RNs to be licensed, so you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) after graduating from an approved program. RNs usually have clinical experience and complete a nursing-related diploma, associate's, or bachelor's program consisting of courses in anatomy, psychology, chemistry, nutrition, and liberal arts.

Medical Assistant

Few states have strict requirements for becoming a medical assistant (MA), however, you usually need a high school diploma or equivalent, and many prospects use postsecondary education programs to gain the advantage of a certificate or diploma. Practical, on-the-job training is crucial for medical assistants; working together with doctors, they perform clinical and administrative duties usually in an outpatient setting. They must be versed in various medical tasks, from collecting lab specimens and removing sutures to greeting patients and updating their medical records.

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