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CNA Continuing Education

Unlike many other healthcare professions, one only needs a high school diploma to qualify to enroll in a certified nursing assistant training program. In some cases, even that may not be necessary. Being able to speak and read English is typically a requirement for any job that requires interaction with American patients. In some settings, speaking Spanish or another language may be required.


Nursing assistant training is not hard to come by and is very affordable. Most of the training can be done in a clinical or classroom setting, but may take as little as 75 hours. Typically, though, programs include at least 50 hours of classroom study and 100 hours of hands-on training under the supervision of the instructor or a nurse. Some programs take from six to 12 weeks. CNA programs are available in technical colleges for less than $1,000. Community colleges and other specialized schools offer programs, and some may be just a few hundred dollars. Some hospitals, nursing homes, hospices or other healthcare facilities offer their own training programs, pay students while they learn, and offer the qualified graduates a position upon completion.
The teacher of these classes is likely to be a nurse with the hands-on experience of having been a CNA. The cardiopulmonary resuscitation class might be taught by the American Red Cross or by a paramedic or emergency medical technician.

Nursing assistant school includes classroom study as well as hands-on practical or clinical skills. The technical knowledge learned includes basic medical terminology, pharmacology and medical equipment, disease identification and treatment, nutrition and anatomy, nursing basics, and procedures for assisting nurses with patient needs. The clinical segment includes actually helping to transfer patients from hospital gurney to bed or chair to wheelchar, safely replacing bedpans and caring for actual people. The education itself will focus on a wide variety of topics including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Caring for infants, adults and geriatric patients
  • Maintaining patient safety and hygiene
  • Assisting patients with activities of daily living (ADLs)
  • Communicating with patients and communicating with nurses and other healthcare professionals
  • Tackling issues facing residents of long-term care facilities
  • Administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to children and to dults
  • Administering basic first aid and life support to patients until relieved by a nurse or doctor
  • Taking vital signs from patients (conscious or otherwise)
  • Observing ergonomics—or safe body mechanics—of performing repetitive or stressful maneuvers (like moving or transporting a patient) to prevent injury to both the CNA and to the patient
  • Handling nutrition and feeding of patients
  • Controlling infection (including the importance and basics of hand washing, as well as more specific topics, like cleaning catheters)
  • Properly recording and reporting patient information to other healthcare professionals
  • Helping patients take a bath or cleaning a patient who is in bed
  • Recognizing mental problems with patients (depression, dementia, behavioral issues whose cause may be physical in nature, etc.)
  • Comforting a patients whose condition is deteriorating and who understands the situation
  • Caring for a patient with diabetes
  • Helping a patient perform his or her prescribed exercises
  • Observing laws and regulations regarding nursing assistants and patient rights
  • Maintaining one’s own dignity, sanity and safety while performing all the above duties

Following the completion of the program (and certification, licensing and obtaining a job), there will be many opportunities for on-the-job training and to continue to ask questions to the supervising nurse or other staff. Care facilities often change patient care protocol or course of treatment, and the CNA will be educated as these changes are implemented.

Once a CNA achieves state certification and licensing, the license (or certificate) must be renewed every few years—typically two. This generally requires earning continuing education hours, usually 48 of them, which may consist of reviewing knowledge already learned, or discovering new topics, techniques or healthcare theory. The medical field is constantly changing, and recent developments, like the medical field’s response to H1N1 virus, must be quickly and effectively communicated to personnel around the country. Nursing homes or hospitals may offer in-service seminars that can be applied to the continuing education requirements, and many online or at-home study programs are also eligible. Nursing assistants must keep accurate records of time spent in self-study and classroom education for times when their state conducts a random audit of the continuing education documentation.

CNA Schools