The best certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are warm-hearted, caring, and understanding, with a genuine passion for helping others. They play a crucial role in the healthcare system and are valued for their problem-solving and teamwork skills. As respected members of a healthcare team, they support registered and practical nurses by performing duties such as dressing, bathing, and transporting patients. If you’re considering a career as a CNA, you’ve got a wide range of education and training options available to you. This page outlines these options, as well as the various ways current CNAs can boost their salaries and advance their careers. Learn how you can become a CNA and join the ranks of this valued profession.
Should You Become a CNA? A Checklist
CNAs help patients and impact the healthcare workplace every day, which makes it a satisfying way for people who are interested in the health care field to contribute to their communities. However, despite its rewards, this career may not be a good fit for everyone. Answer the following questions to see if working as a CNA makes sense for you:
If you answered “yes” to these questions, a career as a certified nursing assistant may be the right choice for you, and it might be closer than you think. Explore the various educational paths you can take to get your CNA training.
Explore CNA Course Options
Prospective CNA students need training programs that will prepare them to perform the job successfully. In addition, each state has its own requirements for CNAs, making it imperative that future professionals get the training they need to meet these standards and earn a state certification. For example, licensing requirements may mandate that students take coursework in nutrition, communication skills, rehabilitation, and vital signs. States may also have specific requirements for the number of classroom hours students must complete and the amount of clinical training they should receive.
Where to Get Your Training
People interested in becoming a CNA have several options for obtaining the training they need. Read each option carefully to see which one fits your educational style, career goals, and financial needs.
Online or On-Campus
Depending on your needs, you may choose to enroll in CNA programs that are completely conducted on campus or programs that are partially online. Since students are required to get hands-on training in addition to classroom work, entirely online programs are not available. However, partially online CNA programs give students the flexibility to attend classes around their schedule.
Research Eligibility Requirements
Every state has different requirements that students must meet before they can enroll in a CNA program, so crucial for you to learn about the specific rules in your area. Although requirements vary from state to state, here’s what you generally need to get into a CNA program:
Enroll in Your Accredited CNA Program
Deciding to become a CNA is an important step towards building a fulfilling new career. Once you’ve made this significant decision, it’s time to research schools and begin the application process. This section aims to guide prospective students through the details of applying for and enrolling in a CNA program.
- State Requirements & Accreditation
When considering schools, it’s vital that you find one that has been accredited by the right accrediting authority. This helps ensure that you’re getting the quality education you need to meet state guidelines. There are several key areas where states may have different standards, including the following:
- How many classroom hours are required
- How much clinical time is necessary
- Cost of training
- Certification fees
- Tuition & Associated Costs
In addition to factors like the number of clinical and classroom hours that students are expected to complete, those who want to enroll in a CNA program are also concerned about how much they will pay to get the training they need. Although the amount that individual schools may charge differs, the following is a general idea of what CNA students can expect to pay.
- Application fees: When applying for CNA programs, prospective students are required to pay the school’s specific application fee. Generally, applicants can expect to pay around the $50 range in order to be considered for these programs.
- Program tuition: Schools may charge by the credit or by the semester. Per credit, students may be charged between $70 and $260, depending on if they are an in-state or out-of-state student. Schools that charge by the semester may cost around $4,500 for residents and $27,000 for non-residents.
- Tuberculosis test and physical examination: Among the fees that students in CNA programs are expected to pay are the tests that determine if they meet the health standards expected of them. These exams can cost around $20.
Finish Classes & Clinicals
CNA programs are a combination of classroom instruction and clinical work. This combination gives students the fundamental knowledge they need to practice and the hands-on experience to apply the theories learned in the classroom to real-world patient care. During the classroom portion of the program, which can often be completed online, students learn about medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, vital signs, mobility, and cognitive impairments. In addition, students are taught the professional communication skills CNAs are expected to have to interact with patients and members of their team.
During the clinical portion of CNA programs, students build on the coursework they completed to gain practical skills such as taking patients’ vital signs, applying heat and cold to different parts of the body when appropriate, and helping patients with hygiene. In addition, students become familiar with the physical demands of the job during this time, as they get experience lifting and transferring patients.
Pass Your CNA Competency Exam
During the clinical and classroom segments of a CNA program, students gain insight into the job’s realities and acquire the necessary competencies to take their state’s required examination. Each state has distinct standards for licensing CNA graduates. For further details about the licensing process, continue reading this section.
Consider Career Advancement Options
After working as a CNA for a while, you may decide to expand your opportunities by going back to school to pursue similar careers in the healthcare field. The following are some examples of the education that CNAs may obtain when they’re looking to advance in their career and command higher salaries.
Prepare Your Resume & Apply for Jobs
After completing a training program and passing the state licensing exam, it’s time for new CNAs to start looking for a job. To be successful, job seekers should craft resumes and cover letters that highlight their education, certification, and the skills they learned during the hands-on part of their training program. The following are some sites job hunters can use to help them create cover letters and resumes.
- Nursing Aide and Assistant Resume Samples
- CNA Resume Examples: Skills for CNAs
- Certified Nursing Assistant Resume Objectives Resume Sample
- CNA Resume: Sample & Complete Guide
- Nursing Assistant Cover Letter Sample
- CNA Cover Letter
No matter how much experience CNAs may have, they need to be able to impress hiring managers to land that job. Interviews can be a stressful part of the job-hunting process, but by preparing for the types of questions employers are likely to ask, you can walk into that interview with confidence. The following are examples of the questions that you may be asked during job interviews when you become a CNA.
- Describe a time where you had to deal with a demanding or difficult patient.
- How would you handle seeing a coworker mistreating a patient?
- What would you do if a patient refuses care?
- What do you do upon entering a patient’s room?
- Why did you choose to pursue the health care field?
- In what ways are you different from other CNAs?
- What would you do if you weren’t getting along with a nurse you’re working with?
- Describe your strengths and weaknesses.
- How do you feel about working in a team?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?