THE BLOG
08/09/2013 02:22 pm ET | Updated Oct 09, 2013

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Do you possess the inherent passion to care for people, despite their age and disabilities? If so, then you could thrive in the health care industry as a certified nursing assistant or CNA.

CNA jobs are some with the best employment outlooks in the years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it is expected to soar by 20 percent in the year 2020. If you are considering becoming a CNA, and perhaps, make the most out of the job openings in the year/s to come, then here are the basic things that you need to know on how to become a CNA.

What is a CNA?

A CNA is a healthcare professional who provides health care services to patients and facility residents. They are also called nursing aides or orderlies.

Job Description

As it has been mentioned, a CNA provides basic health care services to his clients. Here are the primary responsibilities of a CNA:

• Take the patient's vital signs
• Assist the patients in eating, bathing and other activities of daily living
• Transfer the patients from the bed to the wheelchair, and vice-versa
• Dispense medication, according to his competency and level of training
• Apply bandages and support materials as directed by the physician or the nurse
• Relay the patient's concerns or problems to the supervising Nurse
• Document the events and other activities related to the patient
Education
In order to become a CNA, you need to enroll in a college, hospital, or Red Cross office that offers a Certificate Program in Nursing Assistance.
Before you can enroll in some institutions, you need to take up the following prerequisites:
• CPR
• First Aid
• Medical Terminology
• Anatomy and Physiology

To be admitted to such training program, you need to present your high school diploma or GED certification. There are also some institutions that offer online courses in Nursing Assistance, in case you don't have the time to attend classes. Once you are enrolled in a certificate program, expect to dabble your mind in two courses. The first one is the basic patient care course, where you will learn about your duties and responsibilities as a CNA. This course is usually given by registered nurses. This 75-hour program covers taking vital signs, assisting the patient in bathing and eating, providing catheter care, to name a few. Health law and medical ethics are also covered in the classroom course.

The second part of the certification program is the clinical externship, wherein you get to practice the skills and knowledge you have acquired in real-world settings, such as a nursing home or a local hospital. You will be guided by a licensed supervisor as you accomplish your clinical externship requirements. 16 hours of clinical externship is required prior to being certified by the state.

Certifications

Because CNAs are an integral part of the health care entity, the practice comes with specific regulations. A CNA is required to be certified, in order to make sure that you are fit and capable of doing his tasks and responsibilities. In order to be a bona fide CNA, you need to complete 75 hours' worth of nursing aide training. Apart from that, you have to pass a comprehensive exam. After completing these requirements, you will be given state certification, and you can get started on your journey towards becoming a great CNA.

What it Takes to Become a CNA

The appropriate educational requirements and state certifications are just among the catalysts for becoming a full-fledged CNA. Apart from these, you need to possess the following traits that can help you succeed in the challenging world of health care:

1) Compassion

Most CNAs are tasked to take care of the disabled and the elderly. In order for you to carry out such duties effectively, you must possess a great deal of compassion and empathy towards your clients.

2) Patience

The work of a CNA is tough, no doubt. If you don't have the patience -- especially with dealing with depressed elderly -- you may eventually find yourself veering off your goal to succeed in this niche. You will not be able to conduct your responsibilities of feeding and bathing patients, as well as assisting them in mobilizing and turning in their beds.

3) Observational skills

CNAs are considered primary caregivers, especially in healthcare facilities. Since you get to interact with disabled elderly patients almost all of the time, you need to possess impeccable observational skills so you can accurately relay to the nurses or doctors what behavioral or health-related changes you have seen in the patients.

Where to Find Work

According to the BLS, majority of CNAs find work in nursing and residential care facilities, accounting to the 55 percent of the entities employing nursing aides.

While this is the common place where CNAs can find work, they can also seek employment in state, private, and local hospitals; home health care companies; and employment services. As for employment, the states where most jobs are offered are California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Salary

The average salary of a certified nursing assistant is $24,010 per year. The top 10 percent of the population earns as much as $34,580, while the lower bracket takes in $17,790 every year.

What to Expect

The demand for CNAs is expected to rise together with the population of the elderly. Because of this, more and more nursing homes are seen to open, increasing the need for competent CNAs who can look after the residents. Since hospitals and care homes are open 24/7, as a CNA you need to work varying shifts throughout the week, including weekends and holidays.

As a CNA, you will be subjected to physically demanding jobs. As such, you are at risk of suffering from injuries as you perform your daily duties. In order to avoid such problems, you need to mind proper body mechanics whenever you move, lift, or assist your patients.

Becoming a CNA entails hard work, patience, and willpower. If you are truly determined to be one, keep all these things in mind and you can be sure to be in the right path.