A certified nursing assistant (CNA), or nurse's aide, is an entry level certified
healthcare worker. They are an integral part of the healthcare system, collaborating
with Registered Nurses, Physicians and other members of the healthcare team. They spend
much of their time at the patient's side, and as such, often have more contact with the
patient than other healthcare staff. Nurse's aides are in a unique position to be an advocate,
making sure the patient's needs are met and concerns are being heard.
CNA Job Description
CNAs duties include helping to care for patients by assisting with activities of
daily living such as bathing, eating or dressing. Duties also include helping patients
ambulate, transfer from bed to a chair, and use the toilet. Nurse's aides often develop
a close relationship with patients as much of their time is spent at the patient's bedside.
Good communication skills are important for CNAs as they must communicate well with patients
and other staff. Nurse's Aides may do basic nursing procedures such as taking a blood
pressure, measuring a pulse, or weighing a patient.
CNAs work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse. They may be employed in many settings
including the hospital, a physician's office or a nursing home. They may also provide care
in the home as part of a home health service. CNAs working in hospitals or nursing homes
should expect to work weekend, holiday, or night shifts as patient care is required around
the clock. While unusual working hours may be required, employment is often flexible with
full-time, part-time or per diem options.
Required CNA Training
CNAs are certified to practice by each individual state. Requirements for certification
may vary by state. Generally, nurse's aides must complete a certificate program, lasting
from two to six months in length. Programs are often found at local community colleges,
but may also be provided through the American Red Cross or various vocational schools.
Program curriculum generally includes basic anatomy, patient care, ethics and medical
terminology. There is also a hands-on component to instruction where patient care skills
can be honed. Traditional schools have been set in classrooms, but with the advances in
technology, a portion of classes may be offered online. Prior to admission to a CNA program,
students must complete a background check and drug screen, obtain the basic cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) for health care workers certification, and provide proof of certain
Upon completion of an approved training program, CNA students must sit for a certification
exam, the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program given by the National Council of State
Boards of Nursing. The exam is divided into two main sections: a hands-on skills evaluation
and a written or oral exam component. Upon successful completion of the exam, students are
then eligible for employment and will be listed on their state's Nurse Aide Registry.
CNA Salary and Job Outlook
According to Payscale.com, in 2012 the salary for a nurse's aide ranged from $17,681
to $31,144 with a median salary of $22,573. Pay varies based on years of experience, place
of employment, and region of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics,
the job outlook for nurse's aides is better than average. Twenty percent growth in the labor
force is expected between 2010 and 2020, with a total of over 300,000 additional jobs
anticipated to be created during that time.
CNA Career Advancement
Many nurse's aides choose to further their education and become Licensed Practical
Nurses or Registered Nurses. While credit is generally not given for classes taken to
become a CNA, some schools do give preference to students who have experience in the
healthcare field. One to two years of additional coursework is required to become a
Licensed Practical Nurse, while two to four years of additional coursework is required
to become a Registered Nurse. Nurse's aides may find they have an advantage in school
due to their work experience and prior education.
Choosing to be a nurse's aide can be the start of a rewarding and fulfilling career.
Pride can be taken in having the ability to help others while being able to earn an
income. CNAs can enjoy both flexibility and security in their jobs given better than
average expected job growth and many employment options. Nurse's aides who decide to
advance their careers will also have the advantage of having work experience in the
healthcare field. No matter what career path is ultimately chosen, CNAs have the opportunity
to make a positive impact in the care of patients and their families.