It doesn’t take a large investment of time to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Graduate high school or get a GED.
  2. Be at least 18 years old.
  3. Enroll in a state-approved nursing assistant program through a community college or trade school.
  4. It takes between four to six weeks with at least 160 hours of classwork and clinical training.
  5. After your program is complete, you will need to pass the CNA certification exam, which consists of two parts—written and practical.
  6. Get placed on your state’s registry. This will allow you to work as a NA, especially if you want to work in a nursing home.
  7. You may have to complete a background check.
  8. Depending on your state, you may have continuing education requirements to fulfill to keep your license current. Check with your state licensing board to get more details.

An ideal candidate for a career as a certified nursing assistant would be patient and empathetic, compassionate, and have excellent physical stamina. These are important qualities for certified nursing assistants to possess; the nature of the job calls for it.

What Does a CNA do?

CNAs are not the most glamorous in the line of nursing—but you can start quickly and further your training later. Plus, you’re helping people. Nursing assistants are in charge of a lot of the “‘dirty work” in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where they work directly under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse and/or a registered nurse.

CNA job duties include:

  • Clean up the patients, who can get extremely messy.
  • Feed patients if they need help.
  • Reposition patients in their beds.
  • Take and report vitals.
  • Change bandages and other types of wound coverings.
  • Help bedridden patients move.
  • Depending on the training level and the state the NA is in, he or she may be allowed to give out patient meds.

An easy-ish way to get introduced into the world of nursing is through becoming a nursing assistant. Many NAs move on to become registered nurses. It’s a relatively seamless process due to all the knowledge and experience they acquire over the course of their careers. However, some nursing assistants choose to remain in their current role. It’s not uncommon to find a nursing assistant who has been in the career for a couple of decades.

Salary and Job Outlook of a Nursing Assistant

As a nursing assistant, you can expect a median annual salary of more than $26K. Government positions pay the highest, at over $32K on average. The more years and experience you have, the better your chances are of earning $38K per year.

Employment outlook for nursing assistants is 11 percent, which is a bit above average. This is because the baby boomers, which is a large percentage of our population, are aging. Many of them are with chronic conditions that put them in long-term care facilities. Another factor contributing to the high demand for nursing assistants is the high turnover rate of NAs—some feel the demands placed on them are not in line with the salary.

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is a smart choice of professions. It’s one of those jobs that can become a stepping stone to a top paying career as a registered nurse or even a doctor. Or, you could decide that being a nursing assistant and helping others is your perfect job and make it your career. And either way, it’s a great choice that is much needed.There are more than 4.5 million nursing assistants nationwide, they’re critical medical team members, providing care to patients.


edited: 10/24/18

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