Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) provides routine direct patient care under the supervision of a LPN/LVN, RN, or another member of the medical staff. Typical CNA job duties include helping patients with their daily activities, providing simple direct care, and reporting changes in the patients' overall well being to the appropriate staff.

Specific CNA job functions can include helping patients dress or undress, serving meals and helping patients eat, as well as helping patients bathe or groom. CNA's may also reposition bedridden patients to avoid bedsores, lift patients in or out of bed, and transport patients to other areas in the facility. Some cleaning and housekeeping duties may also be required.

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

The training to become a CNA typically does not last as long as training for many other health care jobs, something that allows students to continue to work in their current profession as they complete a CNA education. In turn, the CNA position can be used as a stepping stone to future career opportunities in the health care field.

Here are the typical steps to become a CNA in most states:

Step 1. Personal evaluation. CNAs need to be physically able to move and lift patients, be emotionally stable in order to work with ill people under stressful conditions, and be able to communicate well with others and work as part of a team. A personal health screening and criminal background check may also be required for employment.

Step 2. Earn a high school diploma or GED. While specific state laws do vary, many CNA programs require a high school diploma or GED.

Step 3. Enroll in a CNA training program. Federal requirements call for 75 hours of state-approved training and 16 hours of clinical training for nursing aids who work for Medicare funded nursing care facilities. Additionally, states may have their own requirements over and above the federal rules. It's important for potential students to make sure a CNA program meets their state's specific requirements before enrolling.

CNA training programs are available through vocational programs, community colleges, and from some nursing care facilities. The classes include training on body mechanics, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, infection control, communications skills, patient care skills, and more.

Step 4. Get certified. Once students complete their CNA training, they are able to sit for the state-level certification exam. Be sure to check with the state licensing board for more information.

Step 5. Start working. The skills and experience gained by working as a CNA often allow health care workers to decide if they want to progress into a higher level of training and responsibility. The next logical step for many CNAs is to become a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse. Both of these positions require additional education (such as an associate's or bachelor's degree)

Job Outlook for Certified Nursing Assistants

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the job outlook for CNAs should remain strong between 2008 and 2018, with 18 percent growth projected. Most new jobs should be in nursing and residential care facilities with especially strong growth in community care facilities for the elderly. In addition to new jobs that are created, openings should continue to pop up as current CNA's leave the field or transition to other health care jobs. The BLS wage figures for 2009 show that the median annual wage for CNA's was $24,040 with the top 10 percent earning $33,970.


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