Certified Nurse Assistant

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Certified Nurse AssistantA Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) is a discipline who works under supervision of a licensed practical or registered nurse. They provide personal care for patients and help nurses perform patient tasks. CNAs who work in a hospital have the advantage of observing different types of medical procedures; many CNAs choose to continue their education and attain a licensed practical or registered nurse degree.

CNAs work one on one with their patients and are able to tell when a change in their health status has occurred. They are usually the first discipline to alert their supervisor about a possible emergency situation needing medical intervention. CNAs have the advantage of choosing to work in an array of health care facilities. They may work in long-term care settings such as nursing homes, providing care for residents who are elderly and have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; or they may work on a skilled nursing units, caring for patients who are rehabilitating from an illness or injury. CNAs also work on all hospital units and in medical clinics.


Every state has their own set of guidelines and regulations regarding CNA education, certification and registration requirements. Always research your state’s guidelines before enrolling in a program by contacting your state Department of Health and Human Services, to make sure the CNA program you are interested in is state approved.

There are several ways a student can attain a CNA education:

  • Many technical or community colleges offer state approved CNA programs which prepare them to take their states competency exam for certification. Tuition cost will vary according to each schools program. Some programs meet the minimum required hours needed for a CNA to test for competency and other programs offer more hours, giving students more hours of instruction.
  • Many nursing homes offer CNA training program at no cost in exchange for a certain amount of time worked after graduating. Many nursing homes also pay students an hourly wage as they are training.
  • Job Corps offers a CNA program as part of their curriculum. This is a federally funded program which benefits young people ages 16 – 24 by providing free education, room and board while they are pursuing their educational goals. Job Corps also gives each student a living stipend while attending their program.
  • American Red Cross offers a CNA program which prepares students to work in nursing homes. The American Red Cross is well known for its CNA program which equips students for the workforce.
  • There are some online educational programs for CNA education. This is a convenient way of learning if you are not able to attend traditional classes because of work or family obligations.

Job Description

CNAs provide personal care to patients of all ages. They help with bathing, dressing, toileting and transferring patients to and from diagnostic testing procedures in a health care facility. CNAs also help to keep patient areas neat and clean. They are able to apply certain types of prescription creams to patients’ skin and perform minor procedures according to each state’s regulations. CNAs assist patients with meals and feed those who can’t feed themselves. CNAs also have the responsibility of charting all patient tasks in patient records.

Salary and Job Outlook

CNA jobs are predicted to grow by 20% due to several factors, providing job security. As a large percentage of the population in the United States ages, they will need more health care, requiring more CNAs to fill vacant positions. Health care reform is changing the delivery of health care in the United States. CNAs are able to train as technicians and learn how to perform safe and cost-effective tasks.Median salary for a CNA is $24,000 in the United States, it may be more or less depending on geographical location.

Advancing your career to the next step

Working as a CNA is the first step to pursuing a career in nursing. CNAs can advance their career by attending a program to become a licensed practical nurse. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) carries more responsibility than a CNA. They administer medications to patients and perform patient procedures which require a licensed nurse to perform.  LPNs assume supervisory roles in health care facilities and train CNAs in a variety of settings.

Written by

Carrie Cronkite BSN, RN

Carrie has been a registered nurse for 14 years and works at a local hemodialysis outpatient center. She has experience in cardiac nursing, orthopedic rehabilitation and [...]