CNA - Certified Nursing Assistant
- Cost varies
- renews every 2 years
Certified Nursing Assistant certification is one of the fastest ways to enter the medical field. A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a healthcare professional who provides hands-on healthcare to patients in various medical settings under the supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). CNAs may assist patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, transferring, etc. They may also perform housekeeping or other quality-of-life tasks, take vital signs and cover a wide range of other tasks that enhance patients’ well-being.
Obtaining certified nursing assistant certification is much quicker compared to the process for nurses and most other medical professionals. CNA certification is issued by individual states, so prospective CNAs must enroll in a state-sanctioned training program and pass a state certification exam. In most states, the only prerequisite for entering a CNA training program is having a high school diploma or GED. Admission requirements may also include a physical exam, TB test, and criminal background check.
State-approved CNA training programs are usually available online or at community colleges, hospitals, or the Red Cross. During CNA training programs, students must pass numerous assessments to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
Following program completion, students must complete an in-person clinical training session. The number of hours required for these sessions varies by state, but federal regulations mandate a minimum of 16 hours of hands-on clinical experience. However, most state requirements exceed this minimum. Tasks students must master during training include taking vital signs and other patient care activities to confirm their knowledge of relevant nursing standards.
Students who complete their in-person clinical training are eligible to take a state-approved exam for certified nursing assistant certification. These exams verify a prospective CNA has the essential knowledge and skills to provide appropriate nursing care. The National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) is used in 15 states and consists of a written or oral portion and a skills demonstration portion. Candidates must pass both portions to earn certification. The remaining 35 states have their own exams to become a CNA that generally follow similar guidelines as the NNAAP.
After passing the exam, candidates must submit a CNA certification application and pay any applicable fees. If they didn’t submit a background check as part of their prerequisites for beginning a CNA training program, program graduates must complete fingerprinting/background checks. Graduates usually must submit their certification application within a set time following the completion of their training. Once the state issues a CNA’s certification, their name is added to the state’s CNA registry.
Information on Renewing Certified Nursing Assistant Certification
CNAs must renew their certifications every two years, which generally requires completing a renewal application, providing documentation of required CE hours and paying the applicable renewal fee. If a CNA allows their certification to expire, the rules for renewing vary by state. States will usually require CE hours, may require a competency evaluation and may require CNAs to retake the certification exam at a certain point following expiration.
A growing number of CNA certification training programs are offering courses in an online format, allowing students to complete their coursework on a schedule and from a location that’s more convenient for them. However, students must still complete in-person clinical practice hours to qualify for certified nursing assistant certification.
A CNA career can make a good stepping-stone to other nursing positions. The first logical step would be to complete a diploma in practical nursing through an approved educational program and take the exam to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN). These programs generally only take a year to complete.
For those who want to continue moving up the nursing ladder, taking an LPN-to-BSN program allows students to simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and the credentials needed to qualify for a registered nurse license. These programs typically take 2 to 3 years of full-time study but will take longer if pursued part-time while continuing to work.
How is a CNA different from a Medical Assistant?
CNAs and medical assistants both provide patient care. However, medical assistants primarily focus on patient assessment and evaluation and helping doctors with patient treatments while CNAs generally focus more on providing direct patient care.
Where can individuals learn more about being a CNA?
Professional organizations are excellent resources of additional information about becoming a CNA. The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants and the Nursing Association of Health Care Assistants are great options. These organizations benefit new CNAs, but also provide vital information to established CNAs.
Can I transfer my CNA certification to another state?
It depends. Every state has its own curriculum and program requirements for CNA certification. To learn whether a CNA certification will transfer, contact the state nurse aide program. Contact information for each program can be found on the Nurse Aide Registries.
How much do CNAs earn?
CNAs earned an average of $14.77 per hour nationwide in March 2022. However, CNAs in Alaska and New York were averaging $19 per hour and those in Hawaii and California were averaging $18 per hour with a high of $25 per hour in New York and $24 per hour in the remaining three states.
Where can CNAs take CE courses?
Some CNA employers, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, may not have the ability to offer their own CE courses. However, many community colleges and local Red Cross organizations offer CE courses. Some hospitals will allow non-employees to take CE courses for a fee but only if space is available after their own CNAs sign up.