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What to Know Before Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

A certified nursing assistant (CNA), also known as a patient care assistant or nurse’s aide, works under the supervision of a nurse to help patients with personal care and day-to-day living activities. This career is often looked at as a stepping stone into other nursing career paths, but CNA work can be extremely rewarding. This position is a hands-on care position, so CNAs may be responsible for some of the more difficult aspects of patient care. Here are the 10 things you need to know before becoming a certified nursing assistant.

1. The Need for CNAs Is Increasing Faster than the Average Occupation

One advantage to becoming a CNA is there is a high demand for these positions. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNA positions are expected to increase 9% from 2018 to 2028. With the baby boom population continuing to age, CNAs are, now more than ever, becoming essential workers in the sense of caring for this generation.  Working as a CNA continues to be a sustainable and dependable career choice.

Another force driving the need for CNAs is the cuts to public health care programs, like Medicare. These types of programs, along with other federal and state funding initiatives, impact nursing homes and other elderly care programs. That means the need for CNAs will fill in the gaps in government support.

2. CNAs Play a Huge Role in Patient Quality of Life

One of the most important aspects of becoming a nursing assistant is the moral and ethical implications behind it. Great medical workers want to care for and help people in need. Becoming a CNA is the epitome of this: You play a direct role in a patient’s care. Important tasks of a CNA include answering patient call signals, turning or repositioning bedridden patients, and providing physical support to patients, such as getting out of bed, bathing, and dressing. CNAs are also responsible for reviewing patients dietary restrictions and preferences, and measuring and recording food and liquid intake.

3. People Skills are Essential for Becoming a CNA

Being a CNA isn’t an easy job, but it’s one that demands excellent interpersonal skills. Having great people skills will allow you to not only provide exceptional care, but to become a truly great nursing assistant. This can also be an important area where CNAs have the opportunity to shine. By making genuine, real connections with patients, CNAs can provide comfortable, quality service to the elderly and infirmed. This can be of unspeakable value to patients and their families. Some essential knowledge and interpersonal skills include, active listening, compassion,problem sensitivity and empathy.

4. You Don’t Need a College Degree to Become a CNA

Becoming a CNA is one of the few opportunities in nursing that does not require a baseline, four-year nursing degree. You are required, however, to have a high school diploma. In addition to a high school education, you’ll also need to attend a certified nursing assistant training program. These types of programs can be found online, at community colleges, in high schools, and at other learning institutions. Upon completing your education requirements, you’ll be able to register as a CNA.

5. You Will Likely Start your Career in a Nursing Home or Long-Term Care Facility

CNAs usually begin their careers working with the elderly and ill in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This is where demand for CNAs is the highest, and it’s where CNAs can have some of the greatest impact on care. While you may start off at a nursing home or long-term care facility, you may also start at a hospital. Hospital CNA jobs offer a better salary and better health care benefits compared to nursing home positions. While the hospital job may be the end goal, starting off in a nursing home will provide CNAs with the opportunity to improve the quality of life of many patients’ final days

6. CNAs Are Not the Same as Medical Assistants

While the names sound similar, these positions are actually very different. Medical assistants cover a wide swath of responsibilities, like preparing patients to see a doctor, drawing blood, sanitizing exam rooms, and sterilizing medical equipment. CNAs, on the other hand, deal less with doctors and more directly with the nursing staff and patients on the floor.

7. As a CNA, You’ll Need to Get Recertified Every Two Years

Continuing education is a vital part of the medical field. For nursing assistants, that means getting recertified every two years. This can keep you up to date on new treatments, best patient practices, and licensing changes.

8. Moving Out of State? You May Have to Retake CNA Exams

Every state has its own specific requirements for CNAs, so your credentials may not necessarily carry over if you move out of state. Do your research before your move so you can set yourself up for a smooth transition. This is the case with many nursing degrees and certifications.

9. Health Care Facilities Often Need Per-Diem CNAs to Fill Shifts

One of the biggest advantages to becoming a CNA is the ability to work on a per diem basis. This means having a flexible schedule and being able to choose when you want to work. Clipboard Health is one of the few aggregators of CNA shifts out there. Instead of doing the legwork to find your own shifts, Clipboard Health can aggregate open shifts and pair you to what you need. Sign up today to learn more and explore per diem shifts.

Justine Nelson

Justine Nelson RN, BSN, has been a registered nurse for over 11 years with experience in home health, community health, school based nursing and healthcare based tech startups. Justine is passionate about developing new and innovative roles for nurses outside of traditional nursing roles. She currently serves as an RN content Specialist for Clipboard Health.

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