Duties of a Certified Nursing Assistant

Working as a certified nursing assistant requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Although becoming a certified nursing assistant does not require a post-secondary degree, CNAs are expected to complete state-approved training programs and earn certification via exam. These professionals have basic medical tasks that may include feeding or bathing patients and checking patients' blood pressure.

Essential Information

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are responsible for a number of routine medical duties that are completed under the supervision of a health care professional. State certification is required of all students who complete a nursing assistant training program, most of which lead to the award of a certificate. Individuals interested in this field should be comfortable working with bodily fluids, be able to physically assist or move patients and have empathy for those who need medical help.

Required Education Training program, which may lead to a certificate
Certification/Licensure/Registration Completion of a certification or competency exam is required in all states; the titling and credentialing of nursing assistants varies by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 18% for nursing assistants*
Median Salary (2015) $25,710 for nursing assistants*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of a Certified Nursing Assistant

Unlike nurses and medical doctors who provide the major medical care for a patient, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) provides secondary care and interacts with many patients during the course of a workday. In some circumstances, particularly in long-term care facilities, a certified nursing assistant may attend to a patient more often and more regularly than a medical doctor or a nurse. This is primarily because they are responsible for duties such as bathing, dressing and feeding a patient on a daily basis. Because of the increased interaction between a certified nursing assistant and a patient, the CNA may be able to more quickly notice changes in behavior or mood and notify an attending physician or nurse.

Certified nursing assistants are trained to measure and record basic signs such as a patient's temperature or blood pressure. They may also assist with therapeutic activity such as exercise or provide skin care for bedridden patients. A certified nursing assistant's duties do not typically include more advanced medical care, however. The majority of a CNA's time is spent making beds, getting patients' rooms ready for observation and providing routine care. Because of this increased time dealing directly with patients, communication skills and patience are important. This is particularly true for certified nursing assistants working with psychiatric patients.

Educational and Certification Requirements

In order to become a certified nursing assistant, a prospective student must enroll in a nursing assistant certificate program. These programs are short in duration and can be completed in as little as two months. Certification requires the completion of a state-sponsored training program followed by an exam.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), certification for nursing assistants is mandated by the Federal Government and requires each state to have approved training programs for nurse assistants. Currently, at least 75 hours of training in addition to passing a comprehensive examination is needed for certification. Once certification has been recognized, a certified nursing assistant can have his or her name placed on a nurse aides state registry. Some states also allow certified nursing assistants to become certified medication assistants (CMA) and dispense medication.

CNAs often conduct basic clinical duties under the supervision of nurses or doctors. In order to work in the field, these professionals need to complete short-term training programs and obtain certification or registration. Employment opportunities for nursing assistants are expected to be excellent from 2014-2024.


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