So You Want to Be a CNA? – Certified Nursing Assistant(CNA) as a Career for Students

With the ever-increasing demand for healthcare, it’s more important than ever to have well trained nursing staff that help get the job done. One area that has seen a particular surge in demand is the need for nursing assistants, specifically CNAs.
What exactly is a CNA? 

Well, for starters, the title of ‘CNA’ is short for ‘Certified Nursing Assistant’. Unlike many other careers in the healthcare sector, CNAs do not require a license to practice their trade. However, intensive training, followed by passing a certification exam is typically required before an individual can use the CNA designation. 

In general, a CNA carries out general patient treatments under the guidance of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). Although restricted by law to only carrying out basic functions, the job of a nursing assistant will also put them in direct contact with patients. Therefore, CNA accreditation is important in ensuring patients get a certain standard of quality care and attention from the nursing staff.
Other terms that are sometimes used synonymously with the title of CNA include home health aides or patient care assistants. Regardless of the title, these nursing aides, upon certification, are qualified to be effective in a wide variety of settings ranging from hospitals and nursing centers to assisted living facilities and personal residences. The job of a CNA can be challenging at times, but it is also fulfilling and is commonly seen as a great stepping-stone to getting a more advanced job position in the health care field.
CNA and the Nursing Industry
CNA education and learning continues to grow in accessibility, as the need for health aides is quite robust. Indeed, current market trends project a 26% job growth for Certified Nursing Assistants up to the year 2016.

Across the States, many hospitals experience elevated CNA turnover levels as a result of individuals constantly leaving the role to advance their career in nursing, or going back to school for further qualifications. This is yet another significant factor in the high demand for newly qualified nursing assistants.
Registered Nurses and CNAs generally are subjected to similar stresses in the work environment. Due to this, aspiring nursing assistants have to make sure they develop effective work habits right from the outset of their CNA education and practical training.
A CNA’s Duties
As mentioned earlier, a CNA is generally delegated by LPNs or RNs in the completion of tasks. One of the more common duties involves basic bedside care. CNA-to-patient interaction can sometimes be a sensitive process, which is yet another reason why proper training and certification is crucial for legal reasons.
When it comes to role, CNA training is different from orderlies and medical assistants. Orderlies are responsible for taking care of equipment servicing, wheelchair issuance and other daily operations. Medical aides work directly under the doctor; however, in contrast to nursing assistants, they don’t have the need for any official certification.
Some of the more common accountabilities of a CNA are the following:
  1. Patient repositioning and turning : In order to prevent pressure ulcers amongst bed-ridden and post-operative patients, nursing assistants are usually assigned to reposition the patient every couple hours. Safety of both the patient and CNA is always a priority, so fundamental principles in proper lifting and body alignment should always be observed.
  2.  Hygiene : To maintain the patient’s well being, nursing aides additionally aid in sustaining cleanliness regularly. Everything from shampooing to basic oral care, nursing aides are accountable for trying to keep the patients in a clean and restful state. 
  3. Vital signs : Vital sign recording and observing are standard practices, which can be valuable to obtain a comprehensive patient assessment. Vital signs include the body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure.

Education and Certification
Certification comes only after an individual effectively finishes the CNA training required by state law. Dependent on your location, a State Licensing Board will need a prospective CNA to sit for and successfully pass a State certification exam. The good news is, the education period generally isn’t lengthy, and on average will last between 6 and 12 weeks. In that regard, integration into the workforce is much quicker as compared to other healthcare areas. 

CNA classes online are also available for individuals that currently hold a full-time job but are looking to pursue a CNA. For people who are interested, CNA courses are generally provided by technical or vocational schools at a minimum of 75-100 hours.

Next article, we will discuss the step-by-step details on what it takes to become a CNA so stay tuned!

About the Author: Thom Bastian is a leading writer and publisher of CNA and nursing education content. Follow him on Twitter @CNATrainingU, for more information on the CNA program, including specific CNA schools as well as free CNA classes offered in your area.

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