Becoming a CNA

The term CNA stands for Certified Nursing Assistant. This certification is the fastest and least expensive way of entering the field of nursing.

You can often acquire your CNA training within a few months. Program times differ according to which school and program you choose to attend. Some offer additional training to become a Patient Care Technician. Timing also varies according to state requirements.

Many people start their career in nursing with this certificate. It gives you access to the field so you can find out if it’s the type of work you find fulfilling. You don’t have to spend years and thousands of dollars of training only to find out that you don’t enjoy the work on a daily basis.

Work performed by CNAs

CNAs are on the front lines with patient care. They take vital signs and assist patients with basic needs. These are called ADLs which means Activities of Daily Living. It also includes helping with feeding, bathing, brushing teeth and dressing. Also, they help patients move from their bed to wheel chairs and assist them in getting to the bathroom. They may assist with bed pans when patients are not able to get to the bathroom due to mobility problems.

They also try to help the patients feel as comfortable as possible. This can include changing bedding or bringing ice or snacks.

Their work is under the direction of LPNs or RNs.

Pay Rate

According to a 2010 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States – the median pay rate for a CNA is $11.54 per hour. This will vary based on geographical location, the type of facility, and the current availability of opened positions. This is well above the minimum wage rate.

Where do CNAs work?

There are many job openings for CNAs in a number of different settings. You may want to spend some time researching job openings in your city. Because medical care is needed in small cities as well as large urban areas; this career field can be good for those who live in smaller towns.

CNAs are employed by a variety of health care providers including:
Hospitals
Care centers for older adults
Assisted Living facilities
Adult Day Care Centers
Psychiatric Facilities
Doctor’s Offices
Home Health Agencies

After working in one type of setting you may find you’d prefer to work in a different type of facility. Many employers want to hire CNAs that have experience. So you may wish to start in a field where you can find an opening and then make a switch later.

You can find websites online that only list openings for health care related jobs. It’s also a good idea to visit the sites of hospitals or care centers where you would like to work. They usually have a listing of job openings on their sites.

In times of extreme shortages of workers; some Care Centers will offer free CNA training in return for an agreement to work at their facility for a set amount of time.

Part-time jobs are also available. This can be a good option for those who only want to work 20 or 30 hours per week due to young children or other responsibilities.

The basic requirements for obtaining your CNA

It is not hard to obtain a CNA certificate but you will need to meet a few requirements. These include:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • A high school graduate
  • Complete required curriculum
  • You must take and pass a written and a clinical skills test. You are usually asked to perform four or five tasks within a clinical setting.
  • The certificate must be renewed yearly or every two years.

Qualifications vary from state to state so you’ll want to check your local requirements.

Disadvantages of CNA Jobs

Because CNAs are actively involved with patient care; lifting is often required.

Job advancement is limited unless you seek further education and training.

Many hospitals prefer to hire LPNs for entry-level positions.

Care Centers are open twenty-four hours seven days a week. You may need to work holidays, nights, and weekends.

Getting your first job is often the hardest. Employers want experienced workers. Find out if the program you’re considering has any training for job hunting or offers a job placement office.

Job Outlook

When choosing a career it’s important to look at the potential growth of the industry. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports there were 1,505,300 CNA jobs in 2010. This is expected to grow by 20% in the next ten years. This is well above the national job growth rate of 14%.

As the population of baby boomers reaches their senior years there will be an increased need for Senior Care Centers which are one of the largest employers of CNAs. This will also increase the need for home health care aides and adult day cares workers.

Statistics show that the need for medical profession jobs will continue to increase for many years. Health care is a need; not a luxury so this field continues to grow even in times of a depressed economy.

As medical facilities continue to try and cut costs they will try to fill more positions with lower paid CNAs instead of LPNs.

Whether the economy is up or down – the health care industry will thrive.

Future Options for Advancement

If you enjoy nursing you may want to advance your career by furthering your education. You can obtain an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) or RN (Registered Nurse) license. Some employers will even help subsidize your education. With these licenses you will add to your skills and command a higher salary.

It’s also possible to move into areas of specialization. This can include working with a particular group such as geriatric (care of the elderly) or pediatrics (working with children). You can also decide to move into fields that work with patients suffering from specific diseases such as cancer, heart problems or diabetes.

Choosing a career in nursing can offer a life-time of personal satisfaction, unlimited advancement potential, and financial rewards.

A CNA could be your entry into the health care field. By obtaining your CNA you can find yourself working in a medical facility in a short amount of time – and with minimal investment.