How to Become a CNA

If you’re searching for a way to utilize your care for others a desire to delve into the health care industry, then you’ll want to consider a career as a certified nursing assistant. This “entry level” career offers a spectacular glimpse into the world of healthcare and nursing without the years of training becoming a registered nurse requires. While there are exceptions to every rule regarding the pathway you can take to become a CNA, there are several universal steps all aspiring certified nursing assistants must take to begin working in this challenging and rewarding career.

How to Become a CNA – Step One – CNA Certification Training

While CNAs don’t feature the same responsibilities as an RN or LPN, this career requires a decent amount of training. The exact level of training you must obtain varies based upon the regulations established by your state. With this being noted, the average training program can last anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on your enrollment status (full time or part time) as well as the training requirements set forth by your state.

Training programs are provided by community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals or even through specialty organizations, such as The American Red Cross. Throughout the training coursework, you’ll learn proper patient care, basic Care giving techniques, how to gather vital statistics and other important qualities a CNA will be faced with every day.

Regardless of the mode of training you take, the most important element to look for is a program that’s accredited by the State Licensing Board of your state. Failure to do so will mean your hard earned time and money will not qualify you for the certification examination. Contact your State Licensing Board or the Nurse Aide Registry for your state to obtain a list of all accredited training programs.

How to Become a CNA – Step Two – Passing the CNA Certification Examination

Once you’ve successfully graduated from your training course, you must now sit for the certification examination. While every state requires a passing score on an examination, the contents of the exam can vary. Even though the examinations can vary, every state exam requires successful completion of two parts

Written or Theoretical Exam Module
Practical or Hands On Exam Module

It’s only when you’re able to successfully pass each of these exams that you’re able to obtain a CNA certification here. The application process to register for the exam varies by state, but most require a simple application along with an examination fee and official transcripts from your training institution. To better prepare for this exam, contact your State Licensing Board for recommended study guides and practice tests.

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CNA Certification Requirements

If you have a desire to work with patients in a health care environment, but you don’t have the desire to commit to years of schooling and residency programs that advanced health care professional career demand, then a career as a certified nursing assistant may be your ideal choice. This highly important piece of the medical team puzzle deals directly with patients on a more intimate level. Due to the level of involvement this professional has with patients, every state requires CNAs to obtain certification/license before being able to work with patients. Although each state features different requirements, there are several universal licensing requirements applicable to all aspiring CNAs.

The Basics of CNA Certification Requirements

Although the requirements to qualify for CNA licensure slightly vary, the majority of states follow the same basic formula. Of course, to learn state-specific eligibility requirements, contact your State Board of Nursing (or visit their website) for a list of current requirements.

Age – In order to sit for a CNA certification examination, and to obtain a CNA license, you must be at least 18 years old upon the completion of your CNA training. This means you may enroll in a training program at 17 years old, but you must be 18 at the time of graduation.

Training Requirements – While the exact training requirements differ from state-to-state, all states requires aspiring CNAs to graduate from a state-accredited CNA training program. Along with completing these courses, most states require a minimum of 40 hours of clinical training, which was supervised by a registered nurse or LPN. Contact your State Board of Nursing to learn more about exact requirements.

High School Graduation – Due to the level of this position, all states require aspiring CNAs to hold a high school diploma or a GED. Be prepared to provide proof of graduation by showcasing your transcripts or delivering a certified copy of your diploma/GED.

Background Check – Before a license is awarded to an aspiring CNA (even if they’ve successfully passed both portions of the certification exam), you must pass a background check. Be prepared to submit fingerprints to the Board of Nursing of your state. If your fingerprints come back clear (no criminal record or drug convictions), then you’ll be awarded a CNA certification certificate.

Examination – While you must pass a specific training program to qualify for a career as a CNA, you must also pass a two portion certification examination. Exams consist of a written/theoretical portion and a clinical/hands-on portion. In order to qualify for a CNA certification, you must successfully pass both exams. If you fail, you’ll have an opportunity to retake either portion of the exam up to three times before you must re-enroll in a training program.

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The Types of CNA Training Programs Available

Certified nursing assistants are among the most important elements when it comes to complete patient care as it’s these professionals who look after the daily comfort and treatment of patients. If you have a desire to begin a career as one of these sought after and highly respected healthcare professionals, then your first step is to begin the search for an accredited training program. Much like any other health care profession that deals directly with patients, certified nursing assistants must undergo a specific amount of training as outlined by the State Board of Licensing for their respective state. However, unlike other similar professions, such as RNs and LPNs, CNAs doesn’t require years of training to begin work. Therefore, this is the ideal career for those who are interested in working with patients, but don’t have a desire to continue training for years on end.

CNA Training Program Options

When it comes to enrolling in a CNA training program, the first thing you must look for is whether or not the training program is accredited by your State Board of Nursing. If the program you enroll in is not accredited, then all the time and money you’ve spent will be for nothing as these non-accredited programs will not qualify you for the mandatory certification examination.

Perhaps one of the most common avenues aspiring CNAs take when it comes to obtaining their training is through a community college. While these are the most common, they are also some of the most expensive as you must pay tuition for each required credit hour. It’s important to note that the exact number of hours you must undergo training will greatly vary depending on the state you wish to obtain certification in.

Another avenue many aspiring CNAs may take is through various organizations, such as The American Red Cross. This well-known health organization not only offers accredited CNA training programs, but they also offer these courses free of charge. One of the primary advantages of being trained under the Red Cross is that their method of teaching and included coursework is considered the best in the industry. Therefore, if this option is available to you, then you’ll want to take advantage of it as you’ll not only receive training completely free of charge, but the quality of your education will be some of the best in the nation.

Lastly, if you aren’t able to attend either a community college or a Red Cross training program, CNA programs are often found in online training institutes, which you can find at CNA Certification Scoop. There is a strong word of warning for this pathway: many “online training programs” are not accredited by your state. What’s worse, is some programs produce fraudulent accreditation to attract students only to fool them into support and non-eligible coursework. If you’re considering an online training module, the best course of action is to speak with your State Board of Licensing to review their current list of accredited programs. If the one you’re interested in isn’t listed, move onto the next.

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Everything You Need to Know About CNA Careers

So you’ve decided to take your passion for caring for others and turn it into a CNA career? While there are many options available within the healthcare industry to satisfy this desire, many find a career as a CNA, or certified nursing assistant, to be rewarding. As a certified nursing assistant, you work directly with patients to ensure their quality of life does not suffer due to an injury or illness. There is a host of details you must consider before delving into this career field; however, the following may help clarify what’s expected from these professionals.

Certified Nursing Assistant Defined

In the most basic of definition, certified nursing assistants work alongside other health care professionals to provide hands-on care for patients in a variety of settings. CNAs report directly to Registered Nurses or LPNs. While their specific job functions can vary based upon their employer, the most general duties involved in a career as a CNA include:

Assisting patients with eating
Assisting in hygiene care
Provide general patient care support
Light clerical duties
Gathering vital statistics

Who Should Become a CNA?

If you have a genuine passion for caring for people while supporting a large and knowledgeable medical staff, then this may be the best career for you. If you enjoy being surrounded by the latest medical advancements and learning the “tricks of the trade” without having to undergo years of advanced medical schooling, then work as a CNA will be satisfying. However, if you’re simply looking for a quick career change or seeking out a highly paid position, you may find this position does not satisfy your requirements.

Where CNAs are Employed

The basic answer: anywhere patients are treated. If there is a setting where a nurse oversees patients, residents or clients, you’ll soon find a CNA trailing behind her. This being noted, the following employers are common areas of work for new and experienced CNAs:

Hospitals
Assisted Living Facilities
Nursing Homes
Hospices
Urgent Care Centers
Private Clinics

Requirements to Become a CNA

The exact requirements to become a certified nursing assistant can vary by state. This being noted, the majority of states follow the same formula. Most states require aspiring CNAs to undergo some form of training. This training is completed at community colleges, vocational training institutes or even at The American Red Cross. Generally, coursework can take as little as three weeks to complete on a full-time basis or up to 8 weeks for a part time course load.

Once you’ve completed your training, you’ll be required to take and pass a competency examination administered by your State of employment. While these examinations are relatively similar, there can be slight variations. Generally, the exam is composed of two parts: theoretical/written examination and a practical/hands-on examination. Upon successfully passing each exam unit, you’ll gain the title “CNA” and are qualified to register with the Nursing Board for your State. After this, the sky’s the limit as to what you do with your new found knowledge and certification.

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