Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) to provide bedside care to patients. Online training and certification programs to become a CNA are available, but on-campus or on-site clinical training is required due to the hands-on nature of the field. These training programs are often found at community colleges, although some four-year institutions offer online CNA training through their continuing education departments. Programs can usually be completed in just a few months.
Schools typically require CNA students to already have CPR certification or obtain it during the course of the program. In addition, students often have to provide evidence of certain immunizations and purchase a student liability insurance plan. Those completing their studies online will likely still need to purchase approved CNA uniforms for use during on-campus or clinical activities. These supplies, along with textbooks, are available through school bookstores. Academically, applicants to a CNA program may have to receive acceptable scores on placement tests in order to be eligible for admission.
On-campus and online CNA programs teach students how to provide daily living assistance and bedside care to patients either in the home or in a healthcare setting under the supervision of an RN. Important areas of study in these training programs include the following:
- Infection control
- Anatomy and body mechanics
- Medical ethics
- Patients' rights
- Medical terminology
Typically, distance learners complete coursework online using Web-based learning platforms. Instructor-led online courses usually consist of lectures, videos, virtual demonstrations and class discussions using message boards or course chat rooms.
Even with these online tools, CNA students must be prepared to attend campus on a regular basis to complete laboratory exercises or examinations. Additionally, as required for certification, students must take part in clinical experiences in an approved healthcare setting as part of the CNA program. Each school has its own requirements, but students commonly complete five to seven days of clinical experience in hospitals or other facilities.
Professional Licensing Information
Upon completion of a CNA certificate or training program, students qualify to sit for a state licensing examination. The exam consists of a theoretical exam, as well as a practical exam demonstrating applied knowledge. Exam requirements vary by state but include possession of a high school diploma or GED and completion of a formal training program. After passing the exam, licensed CNAs are placed on the state's registry for nursing aides.
Certified nursing assistants are qualified for positions in nursing facilities and hospitals, as well as in residential care facilities, outpatient centers, government agencies and family services. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that CNAs would experience 18% employment growth in the field between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reported that nursing assistants earned mean hourly wages of $12.89 as of May 2015.
Though online programs for certified nursing assistants do exist, they typically require in-person experiences for labs and clinical studies. These programs prepare students for a state licensing examination, which allows them to pursue work as certified nursing aides.