Get Your Degree!
Congratulations on your choice to pursue the career of a Certified Nursing Assistant! You are well on your way to enriching the lives of those you come in contact with through your compassion and help to those with medical needs. A CNA is a vital asset to the medical field, and the care of patients across the country. Now that you have decided that you may want to pursue a job as a CNA, the next step is how to get there. Simplified, there are 10 steps to becoming a CNA:
- Complete high school diploma or GED.
- Find a Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance (at a local college, hospital, technical school, or Red Cross).
- Check to see if there are prerequisites before enrolling (i.e. CPR, First Aid, Medical Terminology class etc.).
- Complete any prerequisites before enrolling (the program personal can give you advice on where to find/take prerequisite classes).
- Enroll in Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance.
- Complete course work in program (typically 75 hours of in-class time).
- Complete clinical hours under licensed supervision (typically 16-40 hours in a hospital or nursing home setting).
- Pass the Certification Exam.
- Acquire Nursing Assistance License.
- Apply for work in the exciting field of Certified Nursing Assistance!
What do you need to become a CNA?
In order to become a CNA you need to go through a program or training. In the training you will learn the skills required of a CNA. To enroll in a CNA program you need to find a college, technical school, hospital, or Red Cross that offers a Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance. There are also programs offered online. Some programs require prerequisites, or courses you need to have taken prior to enrolling in the certification program. Some of these prerequisites may be classes such as CPR, First Aid, Medical Terminology, and Anatomy and Physiology. Check with the specific program and ask if they have prerequisites you need to fulfill before enrolling in their specific program. Some programs may also require a background check and/or a TB test prior to enrollment. All programs require you to have a high school diploma or GED before enrolling in the course.
The training itself is not all you need. A career as a CNA requires someone who has a good work ethic, who has the desire to help people and is very compassionate and patient. Empathy and patience are two highly valued attributes to medical professionals when looking to hire CNA’s. Not only that, but you need to be able to communicate well, both with your patients and the nurses and doctors who rely on you for information about the patients. A keen eye is a strong asset. Often a CNA is relied upon to be the eyes and the ears of the nurses and doctors. Behavioral and medical changes in a patient need to be communicated to those who are responsible for the health and wellbeing of each patient.
What is the CNA program like?
Typically, certification programs have 3 main parts. The first part of the course is usually taught by a registered nurse. During this portion of your training you will learn the basic patient care duties. You will learn how to take patients vital signs (temperature, blood pressure etc.), how to assist patients with care such as eating and bathing, how to transfer patients such as from a bed to a wheel-chair, the proper procedures of dispense medication, bandage application, communication with supervising nurses in regards to patient care, and documentation of all events related to patient care.
These skills are the primary job responsibilities of a CNA. Another portion of this course covers Health laws and medical ethics of patient care. Typically this portion of the CNA program is 75 hours of in-class time.
The next part of the program is your clinical experience. You will practice the skills that you acquired during your classes in a medical setting such as a hospital or nursing home. Typically a program requires 16-40 hours of clinical experience, in which you have a licensed supervisor. During this time you are able to get hands-on-experience and a feel for what the job of a CNA entails. Some people find long-term job positions through their clinical experience if they have proven to be a valuable asset and there is a need for employees.
The final part of the CNA program is an exam. The exam covers the material that you learned in your program. It covers the material from the text-books in your course work, as well as the hands-on skills you need to be able to perform, such as taking someone’s blood pressure. This exam can be intimidating to some, however, there are many practice tests available on-line and often through the specific program you are enrolled in to help you prepare. The exam is done in two parts; the clinical exam shows what you have learned by you demonstrating your skills. The theoretical exam is the written portion of the exam.
How do I get my license once the course is complete?
Your program or advisor will walk you through some of the steps in the process, but in short there is a licensing application that needs to be sent in to the state. This application will also need to contain verification from your program that you completed the requirements of accreditation. Typically you will also need to have a background check, medical exam and fingerprints registered with the department of safety in your state, pay a registration fee, and then wait for your approval from the Nursing board. Remember that your license will need to be renewed yearly.
Your job as a CNA
Once you have your certification you can start applying for jobs. Typically you will have an easier time finding a job in a nursing home as an entry level CNA. These jobs are very demanding, which is why the turnover is quite high. These jobs can also be very rewarding as you are working with people who desperately need good, compassionate care. As our elderly population rises in this country, so will the demand for people in the CNA position. As most facilities that a CNA works in are open 24/7 and the patients require round-the-clock care, you will be able to apply for various shifts. You may, however, be required to work varying shifts as well, and you will not be exempt from working weekends and holidays in most cases.
Finally, your job as a CNA will most likely be very demanding, physically, emotionally and mentally. It is important, therefore, to take care of yourself. When lifting patients, remember your training, and lift properly to prevent injury. When not working, maintain your health by eating right and exercising, this will also help you maintain your energy at work. Also, find activities outside work that re-energize you in order to maintain mental stamina, patience, and empathy for the people you are working with during your shifts. As a CNA, you will be a valuable member of the health care team, working towards health and well-being of the patient. Take care of yourself so that you can adequately care for others.