How to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant
Just as a parent cares for children who are ill and unable to take care of their own basic needs, a certified nursing assistant performs these tasks for their clients. To further the analogy, this work is often done in the client’s home, whether it is their lifelong residence or a nursing facility.
Possessing the disposition to want to care for those in need is the first prerequisite towards becoming a CNA or, frankly, almost any medical profession. The CNA, however, doesn’t get the glory of removing a tumor or restarting a patient’s heart. Instead, the CNA helps patients with more mundane tasks, and anyone wanting to be a certified nursing assistant should enjoy the pleasure of helping a person restore their humanity. Also, being a CNA requires a certain amount of tolerance for the smells, bodily fluids and complaints that may come from a sick and/or confused client. Not everybody treats CNAs with gratitude and respect, and CNA programs help prepare students psychologically for the challenges of dealing with patients in these situations.
A person who can handle these issues and wants to continue this path should earn a high school diploma or GED. These are not always requirements, but typically are and demonstrate a level of fortitude to a potential employer.
The CNA educational program is quick, as little as a month and a half or as much as three months. Potential students should find an accredited school that is conveniently located and offers classes at times that fit into the candidate’s schedule.
It is useful to remember that turnover among CNAs is especially high—even for the medical field—and the demand for reputable CNAs is only going to increase. In many cases, a potential employer will pay for or subsidize schooling, if not offer on-site programs. It is possible to find, say, a nursing home or hospital with a volunteer position available, get to know the nurse administrator, and negotiate for the facility to cover tuition costs in anticipation of offering the graduate a full-time job. School is relatively inexpensive—just a few hundred dollars. There is often financial aid available, and schools will usually help students identify sources of aid.
Schools will assist with the certification process, but all states license, register or certify certified nursing assistants. Toward the end of the program, a state application should be filled out in preparation to take the certifying examination. This will include a background check, a modest fee (some states have no fee and many potential employers will cover this fee) and a review of educational background.
At the end of the CNA program, there will be a final exam. This will involve a combination of multiple-choice questions on medical terminology and procedure, psychological issues when dealing with patients in stressful situations, and the common tasks certified nursing assistants are expected to perform on clients. There will also be a live, hands-on skills assessment proctored generally by the nurse who instructed the program. This will involve performing five of the many skills a CNA is expected to achieve during a normal day. The student will not know which five tasks will be demonstrated, and must be proficient at all of them in advance of the exam.
Shortly after passing the two-part exam, the state certification will arrive, allowing the graduate to legally work anywhere in the state. To practice in another state, consult the state’s website to learn about reciprocal arrangements recognizing the original state license or certification. Certified or licensed CNAs are placed on a state registry where their names can be accessed by the public, along with any negative comments about their professional behavior. The state board that grants certification also conducts hearings on complaints against CNAs. These marks stay on one’s permanent record and will be read by other states when an applicant seeks to certify elsewhere.
Getting a job as a CNA is easier than ever before. In addition to help from the school, there are many websites specifically devoted to jobs in the nursing profession. The school is likely to have someone who will help prepare a solid resume and offer interview skill tips as well. And, since the demand for CNAs is so large, dressing professionally and walking into a nursing home with a resume in hand is as good a method as any for seeking a job.
The next step is to plan for the future. Working hard and diligently, being pleasant with patients and staff members alike and considering the next step is important. Should a nursing assistant choose to pursue a nursing degree as the next step, the work done as a CNA and the connections made in the first job will help springboard a potential nurse into a better paying job in the future with higher responsibility and authority.