Becoming a certified nursing assistant or CNA is an outstanding career choice for those who want to get their foot in the door in a very exciting, growing career with a nearly limitless potential.
Nursing Job Growth Is Exploding
The general field of nursing is experiencing very rapid growth in the 21st century, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics finding that nursing job growth will be 17% by 2024 overall. Job growth for CNAs specifically will be 18% by 2024, which means that you will have many job opportunities from which you can choose.
Why is this happening? The US population generally is growing older and baby boomers are retiring. This will drive demand for nursing professionals to provide care for them in hospitals, long term care facilities, nursing homes and home health care centers.
Become a CNA To Start in The Booming Nursing Profession
To become a nursing assistant, you need to complete a state education program that is one or two semesters in length. You will learn basic principles of nursing and clinical care in these programs; they can be found in high schools, vocational schools and community colleges.
While you can work as a nursing assistant in some states without special certification, you will need to take a state competency examination to earn the title of CNA. Earning your CNA designation will allow you to work in more facilities and to earn higher pay. CNAs also have the possibility of earning their associate’s or bachelor’s degree later to become a registered nurse.
Earn Your CNA For Maximum Salary and Career Growth
If you want to earn your CNA designation, you will need to plan ahead and follow several very important steps and requirements that we list below. Reading these is really important so that you can get your CNA license quickly.
Note that you have to be at least 16 years old in many states to be a CNA, but some states require you to be 18. Many employers also may not allow you to work until you are 18.
#1 Complete the Required CNA Training Program
You need to complete this program before you can sit for the competency exam. As we noted above, you can take your CNA program in high schools, community colleges, vocational schools, and even the Red Cross.
It is important to find a program that is in your local area; also you should be sure that the program is recognized by the nursing board in your state, or you will not be able to sit for your exam.
You must apply for your CNA license within a certain number of months after you finish your training. Also, it is really important for you to find steady employment as a nursing assistant while you are getting your license and after you have your license.
#2 Turn in Your Application
After you have completed your CNA program, you need to turn in your application for your license. The application to become a CNA is usually two pages in length and asks for the following information:
- Driver license number
- Physical characteristics
- Criminal background
If you have ever have had any adverse actions taken against you in a healthcare setting, you will need to report that and provide an explanation.
The application also inquires about the CNA program that you recently completed. It will ask you when you took the program, when it was completed, as well as the program ID number. You then need to turn in a document that shows that you have completed your training program. You also can have it sent by your school to the state’s nursing board.
#3 Get Fingerprinted
In addition to your CNA license application, you need to provide your fingerprints and undergo a criminal background check. The fingerprint check will show if you have any type of criminal conviction; no matter how old any criminal conviction is, it will show up in the background check.
Even if the criminal matter was sealed, expunged, dismissed, dropped or closed, it probably will show up. This does not mean it will be a problem, but you might have to provide a letter of explanation on any criminal matter that shows up in the background investigation.
What is most important is to simply be honest about your past as you complete your CNA application. If you say that you have no criminal convictions in your background but your fingerprint check shows you do, they will consider your application fraudulent.
Of course, some convictions will present no problem to getting a CNA license: traffic violations, minor criminal matters, or anything that happened more than 7-10 years ago. However, if you have any serious criminal matters on your record that involved violence or assault, you could be denied.
#4 Pay Processing Charges
With your application, you have to pay the fee for the application. Such fees include a fee for the application itself, a fingerprint check fee and a fee for the exam. If you already are employed as a nursing assistant or in another area of healthcare, you might ask your employer to cover all of your fees.
Some states require your employer to pay these fees.
#5 Pass Your CNA Exam
Your certification examination is in two parts:
The written portion of the exam has multiple choice questions with one answer that is correct. You usually have up to 90 minutes to answer 60 questions. However, the number of questions and the time that you have could be different in your state.
The clinical part of your CNA exam has you perform a certain set of tasks. Usually this will be five skills and also handwashing and indirect care. The time that you are given to perform these five skills will vary depending upon the ones you are asked to do. Usually the total time for this part of the exam is 40 minutes.
You do not need to do all of these skills perfectly to pass this part of the test. But you do have to prove that you are competent based upon a checklist that the evaluator will use to score your performance. The five skills are picked out of a list of 23 tasks. Some of the tasks you may have to perform include:
- Moving the patient with a transfer belt
- Helping the patient use a bedpan
- Changing the patient’s position in bed
- Helping a patient with a weak arm get dressed
- Feeding the patient while he is sitting
- Measuring the radial pulse of a patient
You have three chances to pass each one of the skill tests. If you cannot pass the exam in two years after you pass your CNA training, you have to take the training program again. Then you have to restart the application process after you have finished the program.
If you have extensive training and experience in nurse assisting or a related field, you may be able to get your CNA license without following all of the above requirements.
For instance, a graduate nurse does not have to take the CNA training program but you will have to take the licensing examination. RNs are not required to take the CNA training program or the exam. You need to contact the nursing board in your state to see if you possess the education and training that could mean you do not have to go through the regular licensing process.
Tips to Pass Your CNA Exam
- Pay attention in training: There is a temptation to getting through your training as fast as you can so that you can get that certificate. You need to absorb very important information to pass the exam, so make sure you are getting the most out of your training. You will be pleased you did so when you pass your exam with flying colors.
- Understand the format for the exam: You will find the CNA exam very easy if you are familiar with the general format and what they may as. We noted the format of the exam earlier on this page.
- Take many practice tests: You can get many CNA exams online for practice. You should take as many of those practice exams as you have time to take. You should be taking them in the weeks leading up to taking the exam. You have a limited time to take the test so you will not have that long to think about each question.
- Practice with other students: You should be able to study for your exam mostly on your own, but it can help to have others practice with you as well. You can ask each other practice exam questions and practice skills on one another.
- Be ready for the skills portion: The skills section can be more intimidating because you have to complete actual physical skills. Learn as much as you can about this part of the test. The test will require you to show five skills and you have a limited time to do them. You should practice the skills while being timed so that you are working under test conditions.