Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)s work within hospitals, home health agencies, and nursing homes where they provide direct patient care. The majority of CNAs have completed a six to twenty-four week training program offered at various locations. The primary job duties of CNAs are to assist patients with activities of daily living (e.g. bath grooming and personal hygiene, and eating), escort patients to medical appointments, monitor patient heart rate and blood pressure and dispense medication.
Training to become a CNA
CNA training schools provide classroom instruction in the theory and practice of basic nursing care, along with clinical practice which provides students the opportunity to work with patients in a variety of healthcare settings. Training programs are offered at hospitals and nursing homes, community colleges, as well as private vocational schools. Students may attend traditional campus-based classes or participate in distance learning programs. Online study is particularly valuable for working students who need a convenient method of completing the course. Online CNA training schools allow students to progress through the program at their own pace while balancing other work/family responsibilities. A final major benefit to online study is the savings on tuition since these programs have less overhead costs in terms of building space and support staff.
The most important factor to consider when selecting a CNA training school is that it has been approved by your State Board of Nursing. Accreditation is important because it provides attests to the quality of education students will receive. State approval is also necessary in order to apply for federally-based financial aid.
Admission to CNA Training School
For the most part CNA training schools do not require applicants to possess a high school diploma or GED to be accepted. However, students must be able to perform basic math calculations, as well as have good English language communication skills of both a verbal and written nature. Some CNA training schools will test English and math skills by having applicants take an entrance test called the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). In most cases, applicants will also need to be at least 18 years of age, although some CNA training program are offered in vocational High Schools to students at least 16 years of age.
CNA Training School Curriculum
From 110 to 120 hours are typically required for completion of the training program. The following is a list of coursework that will be covered in most CNA training schools:
- Assisting patients with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing and personal hygiene.
- Taking patient vital signs (e.g. heart rate and blood pressure)
- Mobility techniques to safely pick up patients without injury and assisting with walking
- Safety procedures to control infection to patient and CNA (e.g. use of masks and gloves).
- Effective patient and family communication
- Proper feeding techniques for a variety of medical conditions
- Main health and emotional issues faced by those in long-term care facilities.
- Administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic life support, along with first aid techniques.
- Procedures for recording patient information in charts.
CNA Training School Tuition
The cost to attend a CNA training school can range from the relatively low cost $400 (within hospitals or community colleges) to upwards of $2000 at private vocational schools. In addition, many hospitals and nursing facilities offer free tuition provided you sign an agreement to remain with the employer for a certain period of time upon graduation, usually one year. Many community-based non-profit agencies, such as the Red Cross, also offer free training. You may be eligible to obtain financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, or loans. The first step is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available in the financial aid office of the school you wish to attend or online at FAFSA.org.
Certification as a CNA
Once students complete the program, they will be required to satisfactorily pass a certification examination administered by their State Board of Nursing under the auspices of the National Council of State Boards of Nurses (ncsnb.org). There are two parts to the CNA examination: a written part which consists of multiple choice type questions based on theory and an oral part during which you will be required to answer a series of question regarding hands-on patient care and perform basic care procedures on a dummy patient while a test administrator observes.
Becoming a CNA can be a great first step in starting a long-term healthcare career. Many fully registered nurses stated as CNAs and worked their way, having their tuition paid for by their employer along the way.