How to Become a CNA

How to get a job as a part time CNA nurse - Portrait of caucasian woman looking at camera

Over time, certified nursing assistants have risen in popularity. They are the perfect entry-level position, for people who want to break into the healthcare industry. Requirements for training and education are shorter and cheaper, in comparison to their healthcare contemporaries. In addition, CNAs are always relevant and in demand, as the services they provide are invaluable to the operations of a successful healthcare facility. It lets you enter the industry and build healthcare work experience early, with the potential of career advancement and further education down the road. For nursing students or young professionals interested in taking the leap, this article will break down how you can become a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Becoming a CNA

It is important to keep in mind that the process of becoming an HCP will vary, from state to state. Each State Board of Nursing has a different set of requirements for students, before they can acquire their HCP certification. For more information, you want to go to the website of your area’s State Board of Nursing, or contact them directly either through their communication channels or in person, at their headquarters. That being said, the general steps to becoming an HCP are similar, wherever you live.

Receive your educational requirements

Compared to registered nurse roles, CNA educational requirements are fairly generous. While RNs will require a bachelor’s level education, CNA students only need to achieve either a high school diploma or a General Education Degree (GED). It helps to complete courses in high school that are relevant to HCP work, including (but not limited to) anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, English, psychology, physics, and various Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Even if these are not required, they will look good in your school applications.

Finish a state-approved course

When you fulfill all your enrollment requirements, you can apply for a number of post-secondary CNA training programs. These offerings can be found in a number of hospitals, community colleges and vocational schools. Do your research to ensure that the program maintains a positive reputation within your community, and possesses a proven track record of producing quality HCPs. Checking reviews, talking to co-workers or instructors you trust about their reputation, and seeing their competency exam passing rates are just some of the measures you can take, to evaluate a facility’s viability for you.

Most importantly, you need to see if it is state-approved. Without accreditation from a State Board of Nursing, graduates will not be recognized as legitimate CNA training graduates, and cannot take the state competency test as a result. Be sure the program is accredited, otherwise you are wasting your time. As for the curriculum, you can express a blend of practical clinical training and rotations, laboratory experiments, and classroom lectures. The ratio of this combination, and how long your training program will be depends on your state’s Board of Nursing.

Pass the state competency exam

In most states, you can expect to be asked to take and pass a state competency exam if you want to acquire your license to practice. As with the requirements, the content will depend on where you are practicing. Many of these tests split their items between an oral and written segment, followed by a practical skills exam. Every part of your CNA training will be scrutinized, and you need to prepare accordingly. Be sure to study thoroughly and well before the test starts. You can look for review material online or your bookstores, and you can even ask your instructors for advice and recommended reading.

Acquire your CNA Certification

All your hard work has paid off. You can now practice as a state-certified CNA. From hospitals to long term care centers to outpatient care centers and more, CNAs are in demand for HCPs at a number of different facilities. You can send your applications to facilities in your area, take up CNA jobs with your current employer, or book temporary shifts with the VitaWerks app. Not only do you earn extremely competitive rates, you also get the opportunity to build work experience in different settings and build a formidable resume. There is still much to be done, and this is only the beginning!

How do I maintain my CNA certification?

In most states, you will be asked to periodically renew your CNA license. State Boards of Nursing want to ensure that HCPs on all levels are updated on best healthcare practices and are staying active to keep their skills and knowledge sharp. Healthcare is an industry where margins matter greatly, and these measures must be observed to ensure that only the best and most qualified healthcare professionals are providing lifesaving care.

States have their own renewal requirements. Sometimes, you may have to complete a certain number of Continuing Education Units. Other times, you just need to fulfill a certain number of salaried CNA work hours at a state approved facility. Whatever the case, you want to know what these requirements are, and how long the renewal period is as soon as possible. If you renew late, you either have to pay a substantial fine or your license is voided entirely and you have to apply from scratch. To avoid these kinds of headaches in the future, you want to complete your requirements as soon as you possibly can.

How much do CNAs make?

Relatively speaking, CNAs are less well-compensated than other nurses. The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimated that the average CNA compensation sat at $35,740 annually. For reference, RNs earn $81,200 within the same time. Nurse aides are asked to provide vital direct care services, such as (but not limited to) dressing and bathing patients, carrying patients from room to room, reading vital signs, cleaning patient rooms and more.

Though these roles are extremely important, their roles do not have the same technical demands of Registered Nursing or Licensed Vocational Nursing shifts. In addition, they do not possess the same level of authority, as they tend to defer to their supervising HCPs in most circumstances. In fact, CNAs typically cannot carry out certain duties without the approval or supervision of their superiors.

Should I become a CNA?

The lower compensation is something that should be considered by aspiring nurse assistants, before someone enters CNA work. However, this does not discredit the numerous advantages and opportunities provided by the CNA role. CNAs get to enter the healthcare field earlier than many of their peers. This allows them to accrue real and valuable HCP work that they can add to their resumes and university applications. Nursing assistants can work while studying for bigger nursing roles and responsibilities in the future.

CNA work also provides a host of different job opportunities at a variety of different locations. Healthcare facilities need good nursing assistants, if they want to succeed and ensure smooth operations. CNA work is not glamorous, but it is essential and vital for any successful healthcare operation. If you want to enter the industry as early as possible, or you strongly care about providing direct care to patients in need, becoming a nursing assistant is well worth considering. The profession will only continue to grow, as the demand for HCPs in general skyrockets.

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