licensed practical nurse and the registered nurse by providing patients with basic care. They are employed primarily by hospitals, longterm care facilities, acute care facilities, and home health agencies. The pay rate ranges greatly by state and type of facility as well as by shift preference. But in whichever facility the CNA chooses to work the primary job duties remain somewhat consistent.
While the CNA's job duties include a wide range of tasks, primary responsibilities include obtaining vital signs and recognizing and reporting abnormal values, answering call lights, setting up and removing medical equipment, and assisting the patient with activities of daily living (ADL's). As the name implies, activities of daily living include basic activities that an individual engages in to maintain their daily health and wellbeing.
CNA's must be compassionate, caring, empathetic, kind, and have patience with others. They are sometimes the only person a patient will see in a day, such as with home health care, and they can bring tremendous joy and happiness to this person through companionship. In some situations, the CNA may know the patient and family better than any other member of the healthcare team, and often their expertise is appreciated when discussing and determining the plan of care.
Certified Nursing Assistant programs are sweeping the nation. Every state now has at least one CNA program and more are being established every day. From online programs with onsite clinical requirements to 100% classroom models, potential CNA students have many options for obtaining CNA education. When considering a program, be sure it complies with state and federal requirements.
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act requires the CNA student to have at least 75 hours of training, 16 of which are required to be clinical hours, or "handson" training. A quality program should provide at least these minimum requirements, however the actual hours a program requires to graduate may vary greatly from schooltoschool. When considering a CNA program, it's best to choose one that fits the schedule of you and your family.
Choosing any school for healthcare positions takes special consideration to choosing a career not in healthcare. Similar to choosing an LPN program, choosing a CNA program must be carefully researched.
State Exam Pass Rates: Each state posts a list of CNA schools along with their state exam pass rates. Choosing a school with at least a 75% pass rate is ideal. Pass rates demonstrate the effectiveness of the program in teaching its students. If pass rates are low, the school may not provide qualified instructors or educational materials to facilitate learning.
Social Media: Websites such as AllNurses, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may provide some feedback to you from students at the school.
Required Hours: The state mandates at least 75 hours of classroom, or didactic, instruction and 16 hours of clinical experience. A legitimate program must provide these requirements to allow the student to qualify to take the state board exams.
Cost: The cost of a CNA program can vary greatly from state to state, by type of program, and by school. CNA programs can cost anywhere from $400 up to $3000. Reasons for the variation include offering more clinical or classroom hours than the federal requirement, convenience of online courses, and reputation of the school. Some programs may require college courses in English or math and if you have already completed these courses the program cost may be less than advertised. Also, some schools may include the cost of textbooks and other education material with the tuition fees while others charge extra once enrolled.
Attending a quality CNA program should prepare its students for the state exam. In addition to classroom materials the student may benefit from online sources. Searching the internet for “CNA state exam practice questions” will provide some additional resources. Flashcards, practice exams, and study topics are available both free and for a nominal fee.
After successfully passing the state board exam the newly certified nursing assistant can now apply for positions. While the acute care hospital positions are often highly sought after this role may not be a good fit for every CNA.
CNA’s working in a hospital environment primarily obtain vital signs and sometimes point of care blood sugar test using a glucometer, answer call lights when patients need assistance, help patients get to the bathroom, help patients walk around the hallways, assist the patient in eating meals, and assist the nurse with dressing changes or treatments. Patients in the hospital usually do not stay for extended periods of time, so the relationship a CNA forms with the patient is often short lived.
CNA’s working in acute care or long term care facilities focus mainly on distributing and assisting with meal consumption, showers, helping patients with getting to the bathroom as well as checking to be sure incontinent patients are clean, and helping patients get ready for the day in the morning. This may include performing oral care and dressing the patient then helping them get into their wheelchair for the day. Vital signs and blood sugars are not usually checked as often in this setting as in the hospitals environment.CNA’s in this setting may feel a great sense of joy and pride as they bond with their patients and are able to provide them with dignity and friendship over a long period of time. Patients in these settings usually remain there for extended periods of time.
When deciding a career path in nursing, CNA, LPN and RN are the options to consider to get started. Master’s level education can be achieved , if desired, but usually a nurse practitioner works as a CNA, LPN, or RN first.
Similar to considering the LPN vs RN path, the CNA vs LPN career should also be compared:
Many CNA’s use this role as a platform to gain experience in the healthcare field and discover what the LPN and RN role consists of. While the CNA position is entry level, it is a vital role in the healthcare field. CNA’s provide a personal level of care which LPN’s and RN’s may not be able to provide. RN’s and LPN’s often look to the expertise of the CNA for certain aspects of patient care.
Many CNA’s later return to school and complete licensed practical nursing (LPN) or registered nursing (RN) education while working as a CNA. In many states, CNA to LPN bridge programs are offered, as well as LPN to RN bridge programs. These programs credit the student with courses already completed so they may be less expensive than the full traditional course.
Wait lists for a CNA bridge program are usually shorter than for a non CNA. RN wait lists can be as long as 5 years in some places, so it makes sense to work as a CNA while attending LPN school then work as an LPN while attending RN school. And in the meantime, instead of working in a job unrelated to healthcare, the student is gaining a lot of healthcare experience while attending school.
Once a student graduates from CNA school and successfully passes the state CNA exam they will want to find a job, and fast! But where should the search begin?
Most facilities post job openings online along with job requirements and sometimes hourly pay rates. Completing the online application and sending an updated resume and cover letter will hopefully illicit a response. Helpful resume and interview tips can be found online or from experts willing to create your resume for maximum effectiveness.
CNA’s have a crucial role in the healthcare team and a career as a CNA can be very rewarding. With job growth expected to increase through the next decade and schools offering flexible programs to meet a variety of schedules and budgets the time has never been better to become a CNA.
|State||CNA Median Salary|
|District of Columbia||28,520|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012