How to Become a CNA | The Essential Steps to a New Career

CNA is short for Certified Nursing Assistant. A CNA assists a registered nurse in all aspects of patient care. Because of this, a CNA must work closely with an RN. A CNA may have specific job requirements in a hospital setting, but in whatever she does, she must work hand in hand with an RN. If you're looking for answers in how to become a CNA, attending CNA classes is one way. This is just the beginning of your road to being a certified assistant and a full-fledged member of the medical team. 

How to Become a CNA - Basic Steps

Becoming a CNA requires two things: passing a CNA training course (look for "CNA classes near me") including the CNA training, and having a heart and passion for helping people. Even if you were able to pass CNA training with flying colors, but you lack the ability to empathize and to reach out to patients, then you won’t be able to work as a nursing assistant. Another frequent question is,''How long does it take to become a CNA?''

Many think that it’s easy to work as a nurse, let alone a nursing assistant, but they have it all wrong. Being at the frontline in the medical care of patients means you have to deal with all the patient’s needs and deal with the family and his caregivers as well. CNAs, LPNs, and RNs develop a close bond with their patients compared to other members of the medical team. And thus, patients trust them better as well. 

In becoming a nursing assistant, you need to start early, as early as you’re in high school. However, you may still pursue a CNA career any time in your life. You may be young or old, looking for your first job or searching for an upgrade to your current work. Nevertheless, you must at least complete high school to enroll in any CNA training course or any equivalent course.    

Step 1: Earn Your High School Diploma or GED 

To be considered as a candidate for CNA training, you must show your interest in the course by excelling in subjects like biology, chemistry, and other related subjects. You must have a satisfactory grade in these subjects, and you should pass high school or GED. 

You must secure a copy of your high school grades and your high school diploma to be admitted to CNA training. You can still apply for CNA training even if you’re not a fresh high school graduate. As long as you have a copy of your grades and your diploma, you can apply right away. 

In high school, I strive hard to learn important subjects related to becoming a CNA. You must develop an interest in sciences, math, biology and other like subjects. You must also consider your personal interests and your skills before you embark on this career. 

If you’re a graduate of other courses (related or unrelated to CNA, LPN, or RN), then these may be assessed before you can enroll in a CNA class. In most CAN training, studies are offered at any time of the year, so interested students can come and train to be an assistant nurse at their most convenient times. 

Step 2: Complete State-Approved CNA Training

students on CNA training

CNA training is not just provided by any school or training center; training is conducted by state-approved colleges and schools. Training can last from a few months to as long as a year or two.

Training is very specific to a CNA’s role in the medical team, and that is to assist RNs in whatever they do.

The very first part of CNA training involves classroom-based lectures. Basic nursing subjects are introduced, such as biology, anatomy, and physiology. Aside from these lectures, practical training is also done in the field (in a hospital setting or community). CNA trainees will work closely with real RNs in an actual hospital ward or unit. They will learn what real-life CNAs do, and through this, they can assess their readiness to handle different tasks in the field.

CNA training can be as extensive as practicing in other areas in a hospital like in an emergency room, ICU, operating rooms, and delivery rooms. Training is mostly provided by an RN or a licensed professor. Written tests and practical tests are ways to evaluate a student’s performance. CNAs train daily or a few days a week or during weekends for full-time workers or those with full-time jobs.

Step 3: Complete In-Person Clinical Requirement 

An in-person clinical requirement is a list of requirements that a student needs to complete before receiving a passing grade and a certificate.

There are different requirements for passing an in-person assessment, and this is mostly based according to state requirements. You must check the state requirements for CNA in your city or area. 

a young nursing student

An in-person requirement may include the number of hours of service or the number of hours a student was able to stay in duty, a list of completed cases including pertinent CNA tasks such as bed making, feeding a patient, bathing a patient, performing wound dressing, performing an enema and many more. 

A possible part of an in-person assessment could be case studies and research papers. Most complex training of CNAs may also include communication training and how to assess a patient’s medical condition. Training such a first aid training, wound dressing, proper handwashing, proper set up of a sterile area, and many more are usually included. 

Once this in-person clinical requirement is completed, the student may be considered for graduation. In some cases, this requirement is coupled with a written exam and a practical exam to assess a student’s readiness to tackle actual nursing or CNA tasks.  

Step 4: Pass the CNA Certification Exam

A CNA certification is needed for a CNA to work in any hospital or medical business in the city where he or she is located. Certification requirements are provided by the board of nursing or CNA in the state. What topics are included in a CNA certification examination? 

A nursing class

The topics included are ALL the topics and lessons that are a part of CNA training. The test is a multiple-choice exam with some practical questions as well. The number of test questions varies, as well as the style of questions, presented. For more information about the possible questions for a CNA certificate exam, check out sample questions online

Aspiring CNAs can review for a CNA exam online or from a local review center. An online review site will give you sample questions related to CNA including CNA roles, teamwork and roles of others, legal and ethical aspects of CNAs, priorities and priority setting, nursing abbreviations, safety and management, personal care skills, disasters and emergencies, infection and infection control, caring for all ages and health maintenance, common emotional and physical conditions and care of a dying person.   

A certification exam for CNAs is given on specific dates in a year; you just need to schedule your preferred date, submit the requirements, and pay the fees. The list of requirements and the corresponding fees vary from state to state.

Step 5: Get Listed on Your State’s CNA Registry 

The test results are available within 30 days of taking the exam. The results will be mailed to you; it won’t be provided over the phone. If, after 30 days and you still did not hear from the board regarding the results of your test, you may call their number to get your results. Your CNA license may be on its way.

Once you have passed the CNA test, it can take up to 4 weeks for your name to be placed on the registry.

This is very important because no matter where you apply for work, the employer may need proof of you passing the exam. This can be proven by searching for your name in the registry.

getting the results

If you still can't find your name after four weeks have passed, then you must make a follow-up. Contact the board to find out when their list may be updated. 

If, for any reason, you were unable to pass a CNA test, don’t give up; you can always take the test again. But this time, consider studying and preparing for the test mentally and physically. There are no limits to the number of times you can take and retake the exam. 

What Does a CNA Do?

A CNA’s primary duty is to assist registered nurses in their daily tasks. Their various tasks are provided by their respective RNs. A day in the life of a CNA:

Every day, a CNA will conduct shift rounds with nurses. During these rounds, the status of patients is checked, any pending nursing duties assigned with stat duties done quickly. The patient's vital signs are taken, as well as the intake and output of the patient are noted. 

During the rounds, a CNA will assess the patient's needs and prioritize these along with the patients that need his immediate attention. For instance, a patient who needs a change of bedding because it was soiled with fluids should be attended to right away. Patients who need to be prepped for afternoon surgery may have lower priority.

After the rounds are done, the CNA will go about her daily duties assisting patients in all kinds of tasks. There may be patients that need to be taken to the ultrasound department or patients that require assistance in feeding themselves and more. The duties of a CNA may vary from where she is assigned and her level of expertise. Usually, an experienced CNA can handle more complicated nursing work like wound dressing, enemas, and other tasks. A CNA may need to undergo more training to perform other, more complicated CNA tasks, whether in a hospital setting or another medical area.

CNA daily duties

CNA Salaries and Career Outlook 

CNAs may take home anywhere from $90,000 to $130,000 a year. Those working in hospitals can expect a more comprehensive salary and compensation packages, which include free training, free food, free hospitalization, and free medicines, which may extend to the CNA’s family members or immediate beneficiaries. 

CNAs may enjoy an awesome career locally and abroad. In local hospitals, they can have the satisfaction of living nearby their place of work or may commute for a short distance. They may be asked to pick their preferred schedules (morning, afternoon, and nighttime), or they may be assigned to one. 

CNAs working locally may find advancement in their chosen fields as a result of the promotion, but they need to study further to become LPNs (licensed practical nurse) or an RN (registered nurse).

Abroad, there is a high demand for medical professionals, including CNAs. They may work in a hospital setting, hospice care, in an acute care center, in a dialysis center, or as a personal CNA. But no matter where they work, they still require the supervision of an RN. 

Working abroad also has its perks. CNAs and other medical professionals may be away from their families but may enjoy higher hourly rates, free board and lodging, free meal allowances, free hospitalization and medicines, and free training.

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