People who want to have a rewarding career in a medical-related field without going through the rigorous schooling that most doctors go through may opt to pursue a certified nursing assistant (CNA) career instead. Still, some already part of the healthcare industry sometimes buy a college degree to switch jobs. Such is the case because the role of a CNA is essential in a healthcare team. If you are at a crossroads as to which career path to choose, you may want to consider becoming a CNA.

A CNA works directly with patients; thus, you can positively make a difference in patients' lives. Moreover, aside from being emotionally rewarding, it is likewise affordable to pursue, allows for flexibility, leads to a road of various nursing programs, is a stable job, pays well, provides tremendous job security, and so much more.

Understanding the Role of a Certified Nursing Assistant

Certified nursing assistants work under registered nurses and other licensed medical staff in nursing homes, hospitals, adult day care centers, personal homes, and assisted living facilities. They act as liaisons between nurses and patients and help in proper information exchange among the concerned parties. The primary function of CNAs is to take care of the everyday needs of both in-patients and outpatients, if necessary, in hospitals and long-term healthcare facilities.

 We can summarize the functions of a CNA like so:

  •  Assesses, monitors, and observes a patient's vital signs daily.
  • Helps a patient with daily personal needs.
  • Turns and repositions a bedridden patient, transfers a patient from bed to wheelchair and vice versa, walks a patient to an appointment or for exercise.
  • Ensures that the patient's room is clean, that the patient is comfortable, that bed linens are changed regularly, and that soiled clothes of patients are sent to the laundry.
  • Interacts with patients with the primary goal of offering emotional support to them.

Skills and Character Traits a Certified Nursing Assistant Must Have

Certified nursing assistants play a pivotal role in patient care as they engage in one-on-one contact with patients and their companions; thus, they are first-hand information gatherers. Their work involves constant and intimate interactions with patients in varied conditions, and it can get very demanding and critical.

The CNAs should identify even the most subtle changes in the patient's health conditions and report them to their supervisors and physicians. They need to have high levels of physical and mental stamina, great presence of mind, and good decision-making capabilities. Some skills and character traits required of those aspiring for a career as a CNA include:

  • Good communication skills
  • Compassion
  • Alertness
  • Quick decision-making skills
  • Presence of mind
  • Ability to work under stress and maintain detachment with patients
  • Physical stamina 
  • Patience
  • Computer knowledge (medical software, accounting, and MS Office)
  • Knowledge of medical procedures, services, and medical equipment
  • Understanding of biological and physiological issues
  • Time management
  • Ability to multitask
  • Analytical mind
  • Organization skills

Duties and Responsibilities of a Certified Nursing Assistant

The skills and character traits mentioned above are necessary for CNAs to perform their duties and responsibilities that include:

  • Serving as bedside patient-caregivers for anesthetized patients and disabled individuals
  • Measuring vitals, administering medicines, and changing linens
  • Reviewing and monitoring patient diet, checking for allergies and restricted food
  • Round-the-clock availability to patients or being on-call and helping them perform daily activities
  • Acting as a connecting link between the public, patients, physicians, and superiors
  • Gathering all pertinent information related to patient's vitals, tests and maintaining charts
  • Helping in documentation and record-keeping of all patient data and ensuring confidentiality
  • Maintaining high standards in customer and patient care
  • Providing personal care and emotional support to patients
  • Maintaining rapport and communication with peers, superiors, and subordinates
  • Maintaining patient safety and personal hygiene

As you can see, the duties and responsibilities of CNAs are not too stringent. Hence, those experienced in caregiving buy a college degree to get started with licensure proceedings to become CNAs.

Specialization for Certified Nursing Assistants

Certified nursing assistants can specialize in different areas of medicine to boost their career graph. These areas of specialties include:

  • Cardiology: CNA assistance is precious while dealing with the cardiac department. It requires constant monitoring of vitals, assisting patients in moving, dressing up, and personal and moral support.
  • Pediatrics: As a nursing assistant, the most significant opportunities lie in working with children, significantly differently-abled children. CNAs assist such children in learning everyday skills, honing their motor skills, and learning how to use assistive and adaptive devices. Children diagnosed with terminal diseases also require continuous monitoring and medical attention, which nursing assistants provide.
  • Geriatrics: Old age is a growing healthcare concern in many developing and developed countries. More and more residential and long-term facilities are being set up, bolstering the job opportunities for CNAs. Dementia, Alzheimer's, and stroke paralysis are common medical conditions among the senior population, which demands the assistance of nurses. Thus, CNAs specializing in this area will have more opportunities to improve their expertise and job scope.
  • Psychiatry: Assisting a patient with normal brain functions is already a challenge most of the time. Hence, you can only imagine how much more demanding and challenging it is to take care of mentally challenged and emotionally disturbed patients. CNAs need to be sensitive, patient, and physically and mentally strong while providing medical assistance for them.
  • Homecare: This does not fall under a specialization but has become one because of the large number of patients asking for assistance at home. Unlike in a hospital setting where CNAs work with many patients, working as a home caregiver requires only working three or four every day. The workload is less, the job more flexible, and a little personal.

Educational Requirements for an Aspiring Certified Nursing Assistant

To become a CNA, individuals should have a high school diploma/GED and a minimum level of post-secondary nursing education. Students who have accomplished these qualifications from different institutions and online platforms, and even those who buy a college degree, can apply for nursing assistant courses. Individuals need to make sure that the respective agencies accredit the courses.

Though this course does not require the students to possess a degree, it is more advantageous to pursue the course after completing the degree for better job and growth opportunities. Hence, others buy a degree from a regionally accredited college to increase their chances for better job opportunities.

Like most medical professionals, CNAs also need to renew their credentials periodically to remain competent in the field. They need to complete 75 hours of state-approved training and pass the qualifying examination. Pursuing a promising career in settings like residential nursing home facilities depends on the ability of students to clear these qualifying examinations. CNAs likewise need to possess CPR certification and fulfill specific health requirements to complete the course.

Course Subjects Required of Certified Nursing Assistants

If you want to be a certified nursing assistant, you will need to complete an accredited program, after which you may opt to apply for state licensure. Some course subjects that such a program covers include:

  • Nutrition and feeding
  • Infections
  • Hygiene
  • Patient rights, safety, and environment
  • Body mechanics
  • Nursing arts
  • Emergency care

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is a good career choice since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts tremendous job growth for the position over the next few years. Now to become a CNA, here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. Acquire a high school diploma or GED.
  2. Obtain nursing assistant training, typically offered in trade schools, community colleges, and medical facilities. Before enrolling in the training program, verify that the nursing board of the state you live in has approved the program.
  3. Take a state exam for certification.
  4. Pass a state-issued competency exam to earn a CNA license.
  5. In most states, 48 hours of continuing education is required every two years for a CNA to keep the licensure active.

As mentioned earlier, you may opt to buy a college degree from a real college to enroll in the CNA training program. There are plenty of online providers where you can get degrees nowadays, and these degrees are from world-renowned schools. Therefore, you can be sure that the degrees are legitimate and verifiable. You can click to read more information about providers of online degrees to understand how the process works.

Certification and Licenses for a Certified Nursing Assistant

As is the case with all the medical and allied professions, certified nursing assistants should also pass the certification examination to practice in traditional work settings. The licensing requirements further change from state to state, and so do some of the duties performed by nursing assistants. After completing the course, candidates should register with the state health department and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

 How Much Do Certified Nursing Assistants Make?

The BLS projects a growth of 11 percent for certified nursing professionals for the years 2016-2026. For the current year, the median salary of CNAs is around $32,775, with the highest 10 percent earning nearly $39,293. Skilled nursing care facilities and medical and surgical hospitals are the highest employers of nursing assistants.

Hopefully, the things discussed in this article are enough to give you a closer look into the world of a certified nursing assistant. The topics tackled here will undoubtedly help as you decide whether you have what it takes to embark on the path towards a CNA career.