You may have heard of the State Tested Nurse Assistant (STNA). As an entry-level role, becoming an STNA is seen as a viable stepping stone on the path to becoming a Registered Nurse (LPN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN.) The low cost of entry and relatively short training period have made it a popular choice for healthcare hopefuls looking to break into the workforce at the earliest opportunity.
What do STNAs do, however? How can you become one? And what would your career path look like, moving forward? For the answer to all these questions and more, read on.
What is an STNA?
In reality, “State Tested Nursing Assistant” is a label that is only used in Ohio. Every other state refers to them as either Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) or Licensed Nursing Assistants (LNAs). They are also known as Nursing Assistants (NAs) and Nurse Aides. Any information regarding any of the listed designations also applies to STNAs.
Under the supervision of an RN or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), STNAs can be expected to handle direct care duties. In other words, they are primarily responsible for assisting patients with regular daily tasks that they are unable to complete themselves, due to their condition.
What does an STNA do in their shift?
The “direct care tasks” umbrella encompasses a broad list of tasks and responsibilities. Within a single shift, an STNA can expect to carry out the following workplace duties:
- Assisting patients who need help with eating food and drinking beverages. This could mean using gastrostomy and nasogastric feeding tubes, if necessary.
- Dressing and bathing unencumbered patients.
- Helping patients with their personal grooming, such as nail trimming, hair brushing, shaving or dental care.
- Buying supplies.
- Aiding their supervising nurses with certain medical procedures and gathering the necessary materials from them.
- Treating and caring for wounds.
- Answering phone calls for patients who cannot speak at the moment.
- Moving patients from room to room or otherwise repositioning them.
- Cleaning the room and periodically changing the bed linen to promote a healthy healing environment.
- Helping outpatients with their bowel movements and excretions.
- Keeping track of a patient’s vital signs. If any dramatic changes are found, STNAs have to report to their supervisors or superiors at the earliest possible opportunity.
- Documenting and updating patient information throughout the process.
The scope of your responsibilities will depend on what your supervisor requires on that day, as well as the facility you work in itself.
How much are STNAs paid?
Nationwide, CNAs earn around $30,290 a year, according to a census conducted by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Keep in mind that this is an average. This roughly translates to $14.56 per hour. In practice, CNA salaries can vary according to experience, additional qualifications and (most pertinently) location. In Ohio specifically, STNAs earn around $28,453 a year or $13.68 an hour, according to ZipRecruiter. According to their database, the 95th percentile can earn up to $35,194-$37,023 while the 4th percentile can earn as low as $16,911-18,739.
Where do STNAs work?
State Tested Nurse Aides can find work in a variety of different healthcare settings. Per the aforementioned BLS census, a majority of STNAs operate in nursing care facilities, which include adult daycares, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, and more. These facilities admit the type of patients that are in the most need of direct care services. Meanwhile, 32% of STNAs find work in standard hospitals, local, state or private. A smaller percentage of STNAs find work in government facilities and home healthcare services.
What is the outlook for STNAs?
The future looks bright for STNAs and CNAs in general. Between 2021 to 2031, the BLS predicts that the American pool of STNAs will increase by 5%, which is around as fast as the average growth rate for jobs in America. For reference, this translates to 64,900 new STNAs within that time. It is clear that STNAs are in high demand at the moment, and that demand will only continue to grow in the future.
Why is this the case, you may ask? A number of factors play into this. With a good chunk of the patient population continuing to age and increased awareness of chronic conditions that need constant treatment (including diabetes and cardiac conditions), there will be an increased need for extensive healthcare services. As the demand rises, the need for more STNAs to carry out direct care duties increases as well.
How do you become an STNA?
Like with salary, the process of becoming an STNA will depend on where you live. That being said, the general process is fairly similar across various states. For our purposes, we will dive into Ohio’s requirements, since STNA refers to nursing assistants in that area.
Apply for an STNA Training Program: To become an STNA, you first need to attend a state-approved training program. Before you are admitted, you need to complete a criminal background check. You will not be accepted by programs if they find that you have a history of crimes, such as (but not limited to) drug possession, theft or violent acts. You can click here to find the full list of violations that will disqualify you from eligibility.
You also need to present any requirements a school will ask of you. In Ohio, your High School or GED Diploma is technically not required; a handful of institutions will ask you for it, however. At the bare minimum, you will be asked to present your Social Security Card (for American citizens) or your ITTN number (if you are not an American citizen.) Any additional document requirements will depend on the school you apply to. Some schools will ask for your vaccination record, physical exam, state ID or TB test, but not all of them will.
Complete your STNA Training Program: Compared to similar programs in America, Ohio is actually one of the shortest. You will be expected to complete 75 contact hours. 59 of them will be completed by attending lectures, while the remaining 16 are carried out in clinical rotations. In total, it usually takes around 3 weeks to complete on average. Meanwhile, the tuition fee will cost you around $593.
Pass the Certification Test: As soon as you graduate from your training program, you are allotted at least four months to pass the STNA certification test. To take the test at all, you will have to pay a $104 entrance fee. $78 will cover the practical skills portion, while $26 is for the written section. Your school will usually register you for the exam, but if that is not the case, you can also contact the D&S to book your test directly. You can also contact them if you have to reschedule or otherwise run into any issues.
Students are allotted 3 attempts to pass the test. Failing to pass the test three times means retaking your STNA lessons from the start. Every time you retake the test, you have to pay the full fee all over again. The best way to avoid this is simply by studying for the STNA test thoroughly. Luckily, there are a wealth of learning materials available to you. From Youtube instructional videos to the D&S’s official practice tests to STNA physical reviewers available at your local bookshop, you will not be at a loss while you look for review material. Just remember to search for material that is specific to tests in the Ohio area.
Look for work: If you passed the exam, then you are officially becoming an STNA! Congratulations! You can expect to receive your certification in short order. Once that is settled, you can finally begin sending applications in short order.
Is becoming an STNA worth it?
STNAs can start working in healthcare earlier, compared to most other healthcare professions. This lets you gain real and practical experience that will carry over into your work or school applications. Although the pay will be lower than your contemporaries, you can work your way up to more lucrative healthcare positions. Down the road, you can even progress your career with further education such an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing programs in order to take on greater nursing roles. Unlike a lot of nursing students, STNAs can also earn significant income and work while they study and better themselves.
To be clear, State Tested Nurse Aide is not always the correct path for every hopeful HCP. That being said, it is just as valid a nursing journey as any other. Many excellent nurses have started as STNAs, and never looked back. The STNA career path is not a walk in the park. It is a physically demanding and mentally draining profession that makes STNAs stay on their feet for the bulk of their shift. The rigors of HCP work require a certain kind of mindset and will ask a lot of you. If you are willing to accept all this, however, then the potential rewards are numerous.