Becoming a certified nurse aide, also known as certified nursing assistant, can be a good way for you to enter the field of nursing and patient care. Read about the education and training requirements in this fast-growing occupation.
A certified nurse's aide (CNA) provides basic care for patients in a variety of healthcare settings, such as nursing homes, assisted-living residences, adult day centers and mental health facilities. A CNA works under the supervision of a licensed nurse and is sometimes referred to as a certified nursing aide or assistant, orderly, geriatric aide or hospital attendant. Aspiring CNAs must complete a short training program that includes clinical practice and qualifies them to take a competency examination for certification.
|Required Education||State-approved training program|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||18%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$25,710|
Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The federal government requires certified nurse's aides to have a high school diploma or GED and at least 75 hours of training, including 50 hours of supervised clinical experience. Some states go beyond the federal regulations and require as many as 120 hours of training. Before a student has any direct contact with a patient, a portion of the training must focus on interpersonal skills and communication, infection control, safety and emergency procedures, fostering patients' independence and upholding patients' rights. CNA training also includes basic nursing and personal care skills.
Certification requirements vary from state to state. Certificate programs are offered by accredited trade and technical schools and community colleges; some healthcare facilities also offer free training programs for those who apply for work as a certified nurse's aide at the facility. Certification exams are offered by most CNA programs, usually through the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program.
The duties of certified nurse's aides vary. They may aid a patient with activities of daily living - eating, bathing or dressing. They deliver messages and meals, answer call lights, make beds and straighten rooms. They may perform basic nursing duties such as administering topical or oral medicines, measuring vital signs or recognizing and reporting unusual bodily function changes. They may help patients walk or escort them to treatment or exam rooms. In many facilities, CNAs are the principal caregiver and have the most contact with the patients, often developing very caring relationships with them.
Good nurse's assistants will be team players and active listeners to both staff and patients. A positive, upbeat attitude is necessary, as is pride in their work. Other essential assets are organizational and communication skills, common sense and patience.
Without further education, there are few opportunities for advancement in this field. However, many CNAs go on to become licensed practical nurses, medical assistants or registered nurses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a faster than average growth of employment for CNAs between 2014 and 2024, at a rate of 18%. In May 2015, the median hourly wage for certified nurse's aides was $12.36.
As a certified nurse's aide you play a part in a team effort with other medical professionals. With just a high school education, you can qualify for a short training program and then sit for a competency examination to earn your certification through the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program. You should note that certification requirements may vary by state. Once certified, you may opt for further education to advance to become a licensed professional nurse or even more.