As there is with any job, there are pros and cons to working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Here are a few of the advantages and drawbacks of working as a CNA. More about what is a CNA Nurse Assistant.
Pro: Short training time
Most certified nursing assistant programs take between 4 and 12 weeks, according to Nursejournal.org
Mixed pro and con: Pay
BLS reports the median pay of CNAs as $25,710 per year, or $12.36 per hour.
CNA is an entry-level position in the medical field and, like entry-level positions in other industries, it does not pay as well as top positions. The position does pay substantially more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Considering the extremely short training programs required to become a CNA, the position pays relatively well. See CNA salary statistics and employers in your state.
Con: Limited room for advancement
Without further training, there is limited room for advancement for nursing assistants. Some CNAs work as unit secretaries, who perform clerical duties in a nursing unit.
To help nursing assistants advance, there are many CNA-to-LPN and CNA-to-RN bridge programs. The programs help CNAs become licensed practical nurses or registered nurses in less time than through traditional programs, which require one to three years of education to gain a degree as an RN or LPN.
Pro: Job opportunities
The number of nursing assistant jobs will rise 17 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is much faster than other occupations. In 2014, there were 1,545,200 nursing assistant jobs in the United States; BLS expects the U.S. will add another 267,800 nursing assistant jobs by the end of 2024.
Con: Physically demanding
The certified nursing assistant position is a physically demanding job, as CNAs frequently transfer disabled patients or residents between the bed and chair, or move overweight bedridden patients to the top of their beds. Fortunately, sturdy mechanical lifts and teamwork helps CNAs perform physical demanding tasks without injury or fatigue.
Pro: Physical activity
Many CNAs enjoy the physical nature of their jobs, especially those who prefer being on their feet over working behind a desk. These employees enjoy the many health benefits of walking, bending, and lifting.
Con: Emotionally demanding
Working as a CNA can be emotionally demanding. Nursing assistants work closely with hospital patients and residents of extended care facilities, providing intimate care such as bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom. Many of these patients and residents are very ill or near the end of their lives, which can be emotionally burdensome for healthcare workers.
Pro: Emotionally rewarding
While emotionally demanding, working as a CNA is also an emotionally rewarding job. Nursing assistants help patients and residents feel as comfortable as possible and provide emotional support to those in need. Many CNAs cherish the personal, professional relationships they build with patients and residents, and look forward to going to work each day.
Pro: Comfortable working environment
CNAs typically work inside clean, climate-controlled environments and alongside educated professionals.
Cons: Bodily fluids and other unpleasant conditions
Certified nursing assistants must sometimes handle bodily fluids, clean incontinent patients, change bed sheets and empty bedpans.
Pro: Easy to enter profession
It is easy to become a certified nursing assistant. Simply complete a training program then pass a certification test and start applying for jobs. Most programs offer a certification test, which makes it even easier to become a CNA. Most training courses require only a high school diploma or equivalent.
Pro: Exposure to advanced technologies
Medicine offers unparalleled access to modern technology. CNAs use advanced technologies to monitor vital signs, make notes in patient charts, and provide care for patients. CNAs use glucometers to measure blood glucose levels in some institutions, for example, or use a computer to look up medical information or lab results.
Pro: Working as a CNA is a great way to enter the medical profession
Securing a certificate as a CNA is a great way to enter the medical profession, which is one of the largest industries in the United States. In fact, healthcare and social assistance sector will account for one-third of the nation’s job growth between 2014 and 2024. Most jobs in medicine require extensive education and experience – only certified nursing assistants could enter the profession with very little training. Many CNAs go on to become nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), laboratory technicians, and even doctors.
Pros: Important skills that will last a lifetime
Through coursework and job experience, CNAs gain important skills that last a lifetime and transfer into other aspects of the individual’s real life. A certified nursing assistant learns how to take vital signs and recognize important changes in a patient’s condition, for example, and use these skills to monitor and improve the lives of their families or to help someone having a medical problem outside the hospital or nursing home. They learn to lift people and other heavy weights without harming themselves. Many CNAs take CPR classes and undergo other training that provides advanced skills they can use outside the workplace. Most importantly, perhaps, CNAs learn how to help those in need.
CNAs can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, doctor offices, private homes, and outpatient clinics. Certified nursing assistants work with patients of all ages, from newborns to elderly adults.
Cons: Shift work
CNAs provide essential services to hospital patients and nursing home residents who require around-the-clock care, so many CNAs must work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.
Pros: Opportunity to earn more through shift work
Institutions frequently offer a pay differential for evening and holiday shifts. Many CNAs, especially those with young families, welcome the opportunity to work nights, weekends, and extra shifts.
Because CNAs are responsible for the daily care of patients and residents, some of whom can be extremely ill, confused or frail, working as a certified nursing assistant can be very stressful.
Pro: Gratitude and esteem
Medical professionals at all levels enjoy the gratitude of the patients they care for and the respect of the community. CNAs wear scrubs and other uniforms that identify them as highly valued members of the medical team.
As with every job, there are good aspects to being a certified nursing assistant and there are drawbacks.