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Training to Become a Certified Nurse Assistant

Individuals interested in working with patients without going to medical school may pursue a nursing assistant career where they provide basic patient care in a hospital or residential care facility. A Certified Nursing Assistant serves as the primary aide for nurses at a hospital or patient care center. Nursing assistant careers can be very rewarding, and individuals who wish to become certified in the field must complete a formal training program that involves in-classroom instruction, hands-on learning and the successful completion of a Nurse Aide Competency Exam.

Certified Nursing Assistant Careers

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) typically work in a team-based setting with nurses and doctors where they are responsible for attending to a patient's basic needs. The primary duties and responsibilities include providing bedside care, gathering and delivering supplies, completing patient forms, and communicating with the lead nurse.

Other tasks include:

  • Completing nursing assessments
  • Administering medication
  • Preparing the surgery room
  • Communicating with the patient about their needs
  • Bathing and feeding the patient
  • Managing 'Code Blue' emergency procedures
  • Performing CPR

A certified nurse assistant serves as a nurse's aide to monitor the patient when the nurse is not available. They are responsible for attending to all of the patient's basic needs and reporting any problems to the RN or other medical professional handling the patient's treatment.

Education and Training Requirements

Training regulations for certified nursing assistant careers are mandated in the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987; this act outlines the minimum amount of training and supervised clinical training required by all registered and certified nursing assistants. Each State also approves its nursing assistant program training requirements, and in most cases, a nurse assistant must complete a certain amount of continued education each year.

All prospective students must have at least a high school diploma or GED in order to enter a certified nursing assistant program, and the curriculum is comprised of both classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a clinical setting.

Nursing Assistant Program Information

Nurse assistant training is a combination of practical learning through hands-on training and work experience, as well as in-classroom instruction. These training programs help students learn the critical skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their careers. The program may be completed in a campus-based setting or online, and is available at most technical colleges as well as some 4-year colleges and universities.

Certified nursing assistant programs teach students essential skills and tasks needed to take care of patients who are bedridden for extended periods of time, and also help residents and patients with activities of daily living. These tasks are typically performed under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse, and include:

  • Ambulation assistance
  • Applying antiembolic stockings
  • Bedpan use
  • Oral care
  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Bedmaking
  • Serving water
  • Giving bedbaths
  • Nail care
  • Performing range-of-motion exercises

Certified Nursing Assistant Courses

After completing the basic healthcare safety courses of a nurse assistant program, students may complete training in the areas of:

  • Body Structure and Function
  • Infection Control
  • CPR
  • Nutrition
  • Anatomy
  • Patient Communication
  • Hospital Communications
  • Job Searching

The majority of learning takes place in a clinical setting where a prospective certified nursing assistant works under the supervision of a registered nurse to learn basic skills and observe the operations of the hospital or medical facility. This helps students prepare for their careers and gain some work experience in a real-world setting.

Employment Prospects and Salary Information

Individuals who successfully complete a certified nursing assistant program typically find work in hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Some CNAs may also work with nurses who offer their services in a private home setting. A certified nurse assistant can maintain their certification by completing continuing education courses each year.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics Occupational Handbook reports that the overall employment of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. This is largely due to the high replacement needs for skilled nursing assistants in the rapidly growing medical field, and the majority of jobs can be found at nursing care facilities and local government agencies.

Median hourly earnings of nursing aides were $10.67 in May 2006, and individuals who work in a psychiatric setting earned approximately $11.49 per hour in that same year.

Related occupations include:

  • Medical Assistants
  • Occupational Therapist Assistants
  • Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses
  • Personal and Home Care Aides
  • Social and Human Service Assistants
  • Child Care Workers

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