For people who want to enter the field of nursing with a relatively limited education and start to earn a good living, becoming a nursing assistant (called a Certified Nursing Assistant or CNA in some states) is a good choice.
A CNA provides basic nursing care for patients in many different working environments. Most commonly a CNA will provide basic nursing care in hospitals, long term care nursing facilities, home health aide agencies and assisted living centers.
The most important part of a CNA’s job is to help elderly patients with the major activities that are required for them to live their lives. The most common job duties for these nurses generally are the following:
- Cleaning and bathing patients so that they do not get any types of infections or worsen their medical condition
- Helping patients to use their toilet and to get dressed
- Turning and repositioning patients, and helping them get from beds to wheelchairs, etc.
- Listen to their health concerns and provide that information to nurses
- Measure vital signs including temperature and blood pressure
- Helping patients to eat
Becoming a CNA requires you to finish a basic nursing education program in your state and to pass your state’s examination for nursing assistants or CNAs. Most of these programs will take one or possibly two semesters.
Getting your CNA designation is a very wise career choice; the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job demand for CNAs overall will increase by an impressive 18% by 2024. This rate of growth is much faster than other professions. Experts believe that as our population ages, there will be more need for nursing aides and CNAs in nursing homes and hospitals.
CNAs held approximately 1.5 million jobs in 2014. It is estimated that there will be approximately 1.8 million of these workers in 2024.
According to BLS, most CNAs work in the following areas:
- Nursing care centers: 41%
- Hospitals: 25%
- Retirement communities and assisted living: 11%
- Home healthcare: 5%
- Government agencies: 4%
Becoming a CNA also is a smart move if your intention is get more education later and become a registered nurse; that field also stands to see rapid job growth in the coming decade. Becoming a CNA can bring varying duties and career options, depending upon where you work and your exact position.
Some of the most exciting and amazing CNA jobs and workplaces we have found include these six:
#1 CNA at a Skilled Nursing Center
Generally, you will find that most starting CNAs will work in a skilled nursing facility of some kind. The reason that this is the starting job for many CNAs is very simple: There is rapid turnover in skilled nursing care. This job does require a lot of work during your eight or 12 hour shift, and you will probably be undergoing a good deal of stress as you care for many patients at once.
Many of these facilities have a high number of patients and a shortage of CNAs, so you can expect to be busy. The good news is that you will gain a great deal of experience as a skilled nursing center CNA. You can quickly decide if you want to stay in this type of work, or if you want to leverage the experience to work in a CNA in other areas.
If you want to be hired as a CNA here, you should do really well during your clinical hours in your education program. If you demonstrate a good work ethic and that you can work as a team member, the employer will probably notice.
- High level of job security; excellent possibility of moving into other types of facilities; full time and overtime work available; benefits often offered; excellent environment to grow nursing skills fast.
- You may be overworked at times; managing many patients at once takes work; higher stress.
#2 CNA at a Home Health Aide Employer
Many experienced CNAs report that a home health aide agency may be the best CNA job available. These jobs will normally pay the same wage as what a skilled nursing center pays. The upside in this role is that you usually only have to work with one patient at a time.
Many CNAs who usually have to work with 10-20 patients at once often move into home health aide roles eventually if they can. You can decide to apply for this type of CNA position right out of school, though. Your employer may have to take some time to find you a client so that you can begin your work. In the meantime, you can work as a CNA in a nursing home to gain experience.
- Less stress than other CNA positions; one patient rather than multiple patients; 24 hour shifts may be available for some patients.
- Patients may transition to nursing homes over time; patients pass away and you may need to find a replacement every few months.
#3 CNA at a Hospital
Hospital jobs as a CNA are always sought after by many in this field. Working in a hospital is often thought of as one of the best in the entire CNA field. However, these jobs are harder to get. Most people attempt to secure this type of position by checking the website for the hospital they want to work in the most. The best hope in this situation is to continue to apply.
A good idea is to try to find someone you know who works at the hospital who may be able to steer your resume to the right person. Another good idea is to volunteer at that hospital on the side as your job allows. Many people can eventually move into a paying position after they volunteer for a few months.
It’s natural for employers generally to hire someone they know is trained and does a good job.
- Full time work week; good benefits; well trained medical staff; strong job security; higher starting pay usually
- Difficult job to break into
#4 CNA at an Assisted Living Center
This type of CNA position works with tenants who live on their own for the most part but may need some help with some activities of daily living from day to day. These types of CNA clients are not acute care situations and will usually take less time than patients in other environments. They should be able to perform the majority of their daily tasks of living, with help only needed occasionally.
- Easier and less stressful work; good benefits; regular work schedule
- Difficult work to find
#5 CNA Administrator or Manager
Once you have gained at least a few years of experience as a CNA in one or more of the above areas, you may be able to move into a CNA administrative or managerial role. This type of position will require you to have demonstrated leadership and organizational skills; some CNA managers improve their job prospects by taking management and health administration classes.
For CNAs who like the higher level duties of being a manager or administrator, this position is a good way to eventually go back to school to become an RN.
- Better career prospects; better pay; can be leveraged into going back to school to become an RN
- Higher stress; high level of responsibility; dealing with HR issues
#5 Medical Transcriptionist
Some CNAs may eventually transition out of direct patient care into related fields. Becoming a medical transcriptionist can be a good fit because you have a good knowledge of medical terminology. In this role, you are required of converting doctor reports into official formats that are needed for when medical professionals review the patient’s history.
This is a vital part of putting together an accurate medical file for the patient and requires you to have a lot of knowledge of editing documents with many medical terms.
- Non-clinical work; good pay; steady eight hour shifts for most people
- Office environment not suitable for everyone; may require additional training
#6 Traveling CNA
There is a growing need for CNAs who are able to travel in their home area, as some health agencies may have patients that are spread out over a wide area. In most cases, a traveling CNA does not have a set time to work; he or she may be ‘on call’ and has to go to work when they receive a call that a patient is in need. Those calls can come at day or night – whenever you are on call.
- More flexibility; more autonomy; steady work
- Can involve night work; on call at all hours; uncertain schedule
Becoming a CNA is a really good career option for many people who want to have plenty of work, good pay, and the opportunity to eventually move up in the nursing field. There is nearly limitless demand for skilled nurses, as you earn more education, including your bachelor’s and even your master’s in nursing at some point.