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How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Do you enjoy being hospitable? Do you have great communication skills and want to work in the medical field? If you appreciate helping others and have the ability to multitask, you might be a great fit as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). 

A certified nursing assistant is tasked with building rapport and aiding patients with daily tasks, like personal hygiene, brushing teeth, and physical therapy. It is their job to make sure the patients are taking their proper medications, being fed, and documenting patient information and behavior. They need to have the ability to empathize with others and need to understand many medical terms. The goal of CNAs is to make sure the patients are well taken care of, both physically and emotionally.

Sample job description

[Your company name] is searching for an experienced CNA for our facility. We are in need of heartwarming employees who love to care for others. For this job, you need to have the proper skillsets to be able to succeed such as interpersonal skills, strong communication skills, compassion, patient, good teamwork skills, proficient problem-solving skills, and have the stamina needed to help patients in their most vulnerable states. In this role, you work directly with doctors and registered nurses. You will need to follow the HIPAA regulations to protect the patient’s information. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Assisting patients with hygiene, bathing the patients, brushing their teeth, etc.
  • Frequently checking their blood pressure and their heart rate
  • Help the patients move and get to their destinations, like to the bathroom
  • Feed and change the patients 
  • Stay in communication with the staff about the patients 
  • Help and make sure the patients take their medication
  • Assist the patients with exercise and physical therapy
  • Help prevent bedsores and turn the patients 
  • Gather medical equipment 
  • Prepare the patient’s room 
  • Clean and organize the patient’s room 
  • Document medical information and the patient’s wellbeing

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Nursing assistant certification
  • Up to date CPR certification

Required skills and qualifications

  • Detail-oriented 
  • Strong verbal and written skills
  • Familiarity with medical terms
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Patient
  • Empathetic 
  • Customer service skills 
  • Attentive
  • Compassionate
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Knowledgeable in nursing care 
  • CPR Certified
  • Physical stamina and ability to lift 50+ pounds
  • Confident in patient care and safety 
  • Follow HIPAA regulations

Preferred qualifications

  • 1+ year experience
  • Other certifications are a plus

Typical work environment

The work environment for nursing assistants can vary between hospitals, home healthcare agencies, clinics, private practices, and assisted living facilities. Some facilities may require traveling nurses working at various locations. Nursing assistants spend quite a bit of time on their feet and a portion of their time at their desk documenting patients’ information.

Typical hours

CNAs commonly work full time and average 40 hours a week with 8 to 12 hour shifts. Each workplace can vary and nurses typically have to alternate to work weekends. There are also night shifts, and CNAs will have to sacrifice holidays depending on when they are scheduled to work.

Available certifications

All CNAs must have their CNA certification. To receive this, it will take between four and 12 weeks of training and testing. You’ll need to register in each state that you plan to work in. Other than your CNA certification, there are other certifications available that could help you secure a higher paying job, including:

  • Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT). This shows employers you’re continually updating your knowledge in this field to be more successful. This authenticates your patient care skills. You’ll need to take the courses at an accredited university to receive your diploma. A certification test is required.
  • National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP). This certificate measures how proficient your skills are as a nursing assistant. This requires you to pass a written exam of 70 questions and also pass a skills evaluation.

Career path

In order for you to become a certified nursing assistant, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent and a valid nursing assistant certification. You also need to have a current CPR certification. If you happen to have other certificates, it may put you ahead of other candidates, and it always improves your resume. 

Certified nursing assistants work in a variety of facilities and typically have a lot of on-the-job training. It is not uncommon for nursing assistants to pursue a degree in nursing as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), Registered Nurse (RN), or Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) to further their education and success. It is important and required that you comply with the HIPAA Privacy Act and safeguard the patient’s information.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 31-1131

2020 Employment1,396,700
Projected Employment in 20301,512,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 8% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift115,300 increase

It is projected that there will be an 8% increase from now until 2030, increasing the number by 115,300. This is due to the need to replace workers who selected other occupations or are retiring. Because many people are requiring more medical care due to the effects of the pandemic, CNAs are in high demand. This is expected to continue as people experience lingering mental and physical health hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic ending.