A career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can be rewarding, but requires hard work and dedication. To become a certified nursing assistant, you will have to complete a rigorous training program in preparation for the certification examination in your state. After successful completion of the courses in the training program and state exam, you will receive a license which permits you to work in a nursing home, hospital or other type of medical environment that serves patients.
Selecting a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program
Finding the right certified nursing assistant training program requires research and due diligence. You want to receive a quality education from a reputable program. Otherwise, you cannot successfully pass the states certification exam. This will affect your ability to gain employment in the medical field, and you would have wasted valuable time and financial resources in the wrong program.
There are general requirements to enroll in a certified nursing assistant training program. You have to be at least 18 and have completed high school or a GED program. Prior experience in the medical field is not required, although taking health or biology classes in high school is beneficial. You will also need to pass a criminal background check. Not all states require a clean criminal background before sitting for the examination. This is a requirement to comply with federal regulations for certain medical facilities.
Individual states have separate regulations regarding certified nursing assistant training program, so you will need to verify those requirements to ensure the program is in line with those requirements. The training programs vary in method, courses and duration. Some programs offer six weeks of training, while others could last as long as nine months. In addition to the classroom instruction, you will also need to have a set number of clinical hours to qualify for the exam.
Some training programs are offered at a local community college. Hospitals and nursing homes may also offer CNA training programs. You can speak with the admissions representative at several different training sites to compare what each offers against your criteria and goals.
A few programs offer online training. However, these might be difficult to evaluate when it comes to the requirement for clinical hours. You can verify whether or not an online program is acceptable with the agency in your state that handles certifications.
Typical Courses in a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Training Program
Typical courses that you can expect during CNA training will cover a wide range of issues and topics related to patient care. Courses are usually taught by a registered nurse who has several years of experience working in the medical profession.
You can expect to take courses that teach practical skills such as feeding, dressing, oral care, bathing patients and providing emergency medical assistance. You will also learn how to check vital signs and dispense medication. Instruction in the classroom will also cover nutrition, medical terminology, infectious disease control and anatomy. Learning how to properly document medical records and communication skills are also included in most training programs.
You will learn how to successfully interact with doctors, nurses and other medical personnel. One of the most important topics covered in certified nursing assistant training programs is the cardio pulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR. After preliminary training on the courses mentioned above, you will begin to learn about the duties specific to a CNA.
Competency Exam for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Once you have completed the CNA training, you will have to pass the competency exam administered by the training facility. Generally, the test will consist of a written portion that tests your knowledge of medical terminology and skills. The skills portion of the exam will measure your grasp of the daily hands-on duties that will be required on the job. Passing this exam is a cinch if you have studied and fully participated during class instruction. Successful completion of this test prepares you to sit for the state’s examination.
Career Options for a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
Your certification is mailed soon after you complete the certified nursing assistant training course and state examination. Once you have received your certification, you are eligible to work in a medical facility. Most entry level positions for CNAs range between $25,000 and $35,000 per year. This salary varies depending on the facility and region.*
Career advancement is possible, especially in the growing health care field. Some facilities may offer ongoing training courses or tuition reimbursement. This can be beneficial if you decide to pursue an associates or bachelor’s degree in nursing or other health care related field.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Generally, more opportunities for advancement exist in a hospital environment than in a nursing home. Your responsibilities might expand beyond the normal scope of your general job duties, but this could be an opportunity to learn more and qualify for a promotion. Your work schedule may also vary with night and weekend hours due to staffing shortages or the nature of the medical facility.