A certified nursing aide (CNA) is a vital part of the healthcare system. In fact, many consider being a CNA as an ideal starting point for registered nurses since CNA courses provide a host of valuable skills in assisting patients and handling various medical needs and procedures.
However, being a CNA in itself is a whole other story. Most tasks of a CNA are not performed by nurses because they have other responsibilities, such as record-keeping and managing CNAs working under their supervision. Becoming a CNA means becoming a patient care specialist, focused on assisting patients (whether short-term or long-term care) in their recovery and helping nurses in hospital settings. Although “nursing assistant” may not be the most prized job title, it is certainly one of the most vital roles in a healthcare facility’s daily operations.
Taking a CNA course may be a continuing education endeavor (e.g., after high school), but some CNA training programs allow younger students, provided that they meet the specified academic requirements. Usually, this means passing basic arithmetic and reading exams and/or GED.
CNA training programs and classes could be held in and provided by hospitals and other healthcare institutions, volunteer organizations, such as the Red Cross, government-funded centers, accredited online courses, or actual schools and universities. In the past few years, several schools dedicated to CNA training have been established, expanding the options of CNA hopefuls.
CNA training usually lasts 6 to 12 weeks, often conducted by a registered nurse or a certified lecturer; some CNA courses span a full year, usually equivalent to a diploma. Check with the administrators of these programs if they offer certificate or diploma courses. Certificate courses are “add ons” to an existing degree or level of educational attainment (think Adobe-certified artists and programmers), while diploma courses are rough equivalents of a degree, which will therefore include more training and subjects. Online courses are usually certificate programs – check with the administrators or the CNA registry if a specific online course is accredited and a valid equivalent for actual CNA lessons. Students of online courses should also ensure that they receive all the required hands-on training from partner institutions (or other facilities that offer such courses).
A predetermined set of lectures and hands-on trainings are given in CNA programs, some of which are basic nursing skills and clinical procedures, patient care and ethics, and additional courses in anatomy and physiology, infection control, and nutrition. Miscellaneous subjects depending on the institution may also be given, as actual patient cases may require knowledge/skills in these fields. For example, a CNA school may offer special lectures on the care for patients who suffer from epileptic seizures.
Training programs may vary in terms of delivery and approach and additional subjects, but the basic curriculum is followed by most, if not all, CNA programs in the States. In addition, state regulations may also influence the variation in a CNA training program. There are also federal standards for CNA training requirements, such as 91 hours of certified nursing assistant training as well as 16 hours of hands-on training in a clinical environment to name a few.
These requirements are crucial in choosing a right CNA training program to be able to qualify for a job. If you move to a different state, check with the local CNA Registry whether your qualifications would suffice or if you still need to take additional hours of training or lectures or if you need to take another certification exam. Most probably, you will have to do one or all of the above steps to become a licensed CNA in two or more states.
Becoming a CNA is not an easy-go-lucky endeavor. Although the training period might be shorter than other degree courses, these programs are developed to ensure that the best possible care and assistance will be given to patients, which only a competent CNA could give.