Becoming a CNA or certified nursing assistant is a popular health care career choice. You can become a CNA with a few months of training in a local education program, then begin to work and gain health care experience.
Many people choose to become a CNA today because there is expected to be a 19% increase in job demand by 2024, with plenty of new work available.
Keep reading to learn more about the rewarding CNA career.
Main CNA Role Overview
The main role of a CNA is to provide the most basic care to patients. They also are trained to help them in their daily activities that they could have trouble doing on their own. Because this is a personal sort of occupation, a CNA must be compassionate and get satisfaction out of helping other people. In many long term care facilities and nursing homes, CNAs are often the main caregivers for patients.
CNAs also need to work often with medical technology, including software used for billing, health information software and software for charting medical records. Some CNAs may administer some medications to patients, but this will depend up how much training and experience they have. This also will depend upon the state in which the CNA works.
Most CNAs work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs).
Overview of CNA Duties
CNAs play a very important role in helping patients with many daily activities, which usually include the following:
- Helping patients to bathe and dress
- Serving meals each day and assisting patients with eating as needed
- Taking blood pressure and pulse daily
- Turning and repositioning patients who are in bed all day
- Obtain information about conditions and plans of treatment from health care providers
- Empty and clean bed pans each day
- Help patients get into bed, into wheelchairs and onto examination tables
- Respond to patients when they call
- Check the physical condition of patients each day for bruises, any blood in their urine and feces, and check for other wounds
- Sanitize and clean patients’ rooms and beds
- Change sheets on beds and restock supplies in rooms as needed
Common Career Paths for CNAs
CNAs most often work in state, local and private hospitals, but they also often work in long term care facilities and nursing homes with the elderly. Note that due to the 24/7 nature of the medical and health care field, you may need to work nights, holidays and weekends.
- Nursing homes and long term care centers: The American population is growing older, and those who are elderly and are disabled mentally and/or physically often need long term care. This is making the CNA role much more necessary. If you want to work as a CNA and gain valuable healthcare experience, working in a nursing home or long term care facility could be a good fit. You will usually develop longer term relationships with your patients as they often live in those facilities until the end of life.
- Hospitals: Your CNA tasks in hospitals are similar to nursing homes, but you are working in a fast paced clinical environment where they patients often only are there from a day to a few weeks at most. If you want to work in a faster paced environment with lots of new faces every week, working in a hospital may be a good choice. Working in a hospital can give you more exposure to different departments. This could be valuable later if you decide to continue with your education.
- Assisted living facilities: These types of living facilities are where some elderly continue to live semi-independently but may occasionally need the help of a CNA to complete some tasks. Most assisted living facilities also have a nursing home as well for when patients get sick and need more care. You could work in the nursing home in that case as well.
- Home health care services: If you are an experienced CNA, you can someday work in home health care. In this role, you would visit the homes of regular patients and help them to accomplish their daily tasks as they need help. Home health care CNA jobs are competitive, and you will need to have a few years of CNA experience in a hospital or nursing home to qualify.
How to Become a CNA
Becoming a CNA does not require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing; that is one of the major advantages the job. You do need to obtain formal training in a CNA program, which are most commonly provided by community and vocational colleges. Some hospitals with education classes may have CNA programs as well.
Your CNA program will be a combination of nursing basics classes combined with supervised clinical work for a certain number of hours, which can vary based upon your state.
After you have completed your training, you need to take your state certification examination to earn your certification to work. To learn more about taking the exam in your state, you should visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Overview of CNA Curriculum
Your CNA curriculum will vary to a degree upon where you live, but most CNA programs are required to have the following sections:
- Anatomy and physiology classes: You will have classes in your certificate program that will give you an overview of anatomy and physiology. Expect to learn about respiratory systems, musculoskeletal systems, digestive systems and the urinary system
- Excretory functions: You will need to deal with patient excretory functions as a CNA. So you will need to be able to define and explain all of the terminology that is associated with human elimination procedures. You also should be able to identify all of the aspects of the urinary and digestive systems. Also, you will learn how to handle feces and urine safely for collection purposes.
- Practical skills: You also will spend time learning the practical skills that you need to know to work as a CNA, including bed making, dressing and undressing patients, bathing, and caring for patients’ skin.