A Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, is an often overlooked but important member of a care team. They spend more time with clients than any other role, even doctors and nurses. All while taking on work that is both physically and emotionally demanding. But, it is also incredibly rewarding and an excellent starting point in a healthcare career. So, what is a CNA and how do you become one?
What is a CNA?
A Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, provides hands-on healthcare to patients, assisting them with basic activities like bathing and dressing. Essentially, they help people with a limited ability to care for themselves complete daily tasks with ease. They provide intimate care that really makes a difference to the people who depend on them, whether their patients are elderly, disabled, injured, ill, or otherwise infirm.
What does a CNA do?
Depending on the environment in which CNAs work, their duties can vary considerably. Since CNAs work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse, many nursing assistants are employed in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and assisted living facilities. Others work in doctor’s offices or urgent care clinics. And some – such as those at Aware Senior Care – help people who live in their own homes, working as home health aides.
Though the specific responsibilities of CNAs vary on a case-by-case basis, their duties generally include the following:
- Taking patients’ vital signs (like their temperature and blood pressure)
- Bathing patients, as well as helping with other aspects of personal hygiene (like combing their hair and brushing their teeth)
- Responding to patient calls and reporting patients’ health issues to nurses
- Assisting bedridden patients with mobility
- Feeding patients
- Housekeeping activities like cleaning rooms, washing bed linens, preparing rooms for admissions, and gathering supplies
- Helping with medical procedures and dressing wounds
Should I Become a Certified Nursing Assistant?
If you’re passionate about caring for others, pursuing a career as a CNA may be very fulfilling. Nursing is an intimate, charitable vocation; nursing assistants improve the quality of life of the people they interact with every day. The care you provide as a nursing assistant makes a big difference to patients and their loved ones. As a CNA, you help patients who are unable to care for themselves maintain their dignity and enjoyment of life.
How do I become a CNA?
Have you decided you’d like to pursue a career as a nursing assistant? CNAs are not required to hold a college degree, but they are required to undergo specialized training before taking on patients. Though CNA credentials vary from state to state, all prospective CNAs must obtain a high school diploma, complete nursing assistant training, and pass a CNA certification exam.
Nursing assistant training courses are conducted at community colleges, trade schools, and medical facilities. After they confirm that a particular training course is approved by their state’s nursing board, prospective CNAs simply enroll in the course and receive all of the training they need. Then, it’s time to take the exam.
What is a CNA certification? CNA certification exam is broken into two parts. The first is a written exam, which consists of multiple-choice questions and is taken in a group setting in a 90-minute period. The second part is a practical exam, which tests each student’s clinical skills individually. In this 30-minute portion, a single proctor tests a student on four randomly selected clinical skills to determine his or her competency.
Having completed the training and the examination, CNAs are ready to put their skills to work in a professional setting.
Would I Make a Good CNA?
Because CNAs work so closely with patients, they must possess certain qualities in order to succeed.
Compassion and empathy are very important in any profession that requires you to care for others. As much as CNAs support their patients’ physical well being, they must look after their emotional well being. Patients who require the help of a CNA are usually struggling in some way. They may be elderly and trying to come to terms with aging; but it’s frustrating that they can’t do the things they used to do for themselves. Maybe they’re learning to live with a new disability and grappling with the sudden change to their lifestyle. Or maybe they’re ill and yearning for the day that they’ll be healthy again. In any case, patients usually require some emotional support.
Empathetic. They not only need to be empathetic to the ways in which the patient is struggling; they need to be mindful of the effect on the patient’s family as well.
Patience is another essential trait of a good CNA. Being a caregiver isn’t always easy. And although patients who receive care usually recognize on some level that they need it, they don’t necessarily welcome it with open arms. Empathy can help CNAs be patient with the people they care for, understanding that losing the ability to care for themselves takes a toll.
Communication with Patients, Family, and Fellow Staff
Excellent communication skills are also fundamental to being a good CNA. CNAs are often the medical professionals that spend the most time with patients. They need to be able to communicate effectively with patients, as well as convey information clearly to the nurses that they report to. Some CNAs, such as those who provide in-home care, not only communicate with nurses and patients but with the patients’ families, too. Because CNAs are responsible for monitoring the condition of their patients’ health, they need to be able to communicate clearly at all steps in the process of caregiving.
Depending on the setting in which a CNA works, flexibility may also be an important characteristic. Home health aides, like the caregivers at Aware Senior Care, need to be able to modify their care to fit changing circumstances. Maybe a patient needs care for much longer than he expected to need it, or maybe he needs help doing different tasks than he had anticipated. Whatever the reason for the change, a good CNA needs to be able to adapt.
If you’ve decided you’d like to become a CNA, Aware Senior Care can guide you through your next steps. Feel free to reach out to us!
Aware Senior Care provides award-winning, in-home companion care, personal care, and nursing services. We believe that exceptional home care starts with exceptional caregivers – and you could be one of them! We’re always looking for professional, compassionate, skillful caregivers. You can find more information about how to join our team here.