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CNA Career Overview

Certified Nursing Assistants, also known as Nurse Assistants or CNAs, are trained to provide safe and high quality medical care. They work under the direction of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or licensed vocational nurses to meet the basic healthcare needs of their patients in a variety of different settings. A career as a CNA can be very rewarding. If you are interested in starting a new career or obtaining training in the healthcare industry, working as a CNA may be the right fit for you. Now is a great time to pursue a CNA career as many options for convenient and flexible online CNA training currently exist.

Becoming a CNA Online

Becoming a CNA is a great way to begin working in the healthcare field after just several months of training. If you are thinking about becoming a CNA, it may be helpful to understand what steps you must take. Generally, in order to become a CNA, one must complete the following:

  • Enroll in a Nursing Assistant training program or CNA classes online

  • Complete a Nursing Assistant training program

  • Pass the Nursing Assistant Competency Certification Examination

  • Pass a background check and drug screening

  • Follow state specific guidelines in order to receive CNA certification or licensure

Most states require certification but some may also require licensure. It is important to research the state in which you will be working to find out the specific requirements, especially if you are planning to take online CNA classes.

Types of CNA Training

Traditional CNA Training Programs

Many vocational and technical colleges and even some hospitals and nursing homes offer traditional CNA training programs. These programs usually take an average of 6 to 8 weeks to complete and are completed on-location (some may take as little as 3 weeks or as many as 12 weeks). They often consist of some time spent in a traditional classroom setting with other students, learning out of textbooks and through lectures, and some time spent working in a healthcare facility practicing with actual patients. Traditional training programs work well for individuals who are not working or are working part-time as the hours of classes and clinicals are generally not very flexible and require in-person attendance, as compared to taking CNA classes online which is a more flexible option.

cna online classes

Online CNA Training Programs

Certification as a nursing assistant can be obtained through traditional classes, but if in-person classes do not fit into your schedule, certification classes can also be obtained conveniently online. There are many different programs which offer the necessary classes for becoming a CNA in an online format. Many are offered through vocational and technical colleges or by online medical education schools. The required number of training hours varies by state. CNA certification requirements are managed on a state-by-state basis and many states requires a combination of classroom hours and clinical hours. Classroom hours include time spent in the “classroom” or online and clinical hours include time spent doing hands-on training directed by a registered nurse. There are options for completing all of the training solely online. Completing classroom hours via CNA classes online is a great option for students who work full-time or who need more flexibility in their training schedule.

Why take CNA Classes Online?

Each state has specific requirements about the amount of training a CNA needs to complete. The general minimum amount is 75 hours of classroom experience plus additional hours of hands-on clinical experience. 75 hours is a lot of time to spend sitting in a classroom. If you have a full-time job or family that you need to take care of, spending 75 hours of your time in a classroom in order to become a CNA may not be possible. Fortunately, you do not have to give up becoming a CNA as there are other options available. Many technical colleges as well as medical education programs now offer the option of completing the classroom hours for CNA classes online. This means that, instead of having to leave your home and drive to a campus to participate in CNA training, you can stay home and learn everything you need to know by participating in online CNA classes. This gives you the ability to train to become a nursing assistant while still being able to care for your family or work a full-time job. It also saves you time and money as you do not need to worry about driving to a campus location.

online cna classes
cna training online

How does online learning work?

Online learning often consists of discussion groups and video lectures, as well as online assignments and examinations. With some “self-directed” online learning options, you can complete the training at your own pace. There will be direction from an instructor, but the assignments and exams can be done at your own pace and on your own time. Other online learning options may require that you complete the classes within a certain time frame, or log on at certain times to participate in chats or exams with the instructor and other students in real time. In either case, CNA classes online can be beneficial and can provide the same amount of quality instruction as in-person classroom learning.

Online CNA training programs make it possible to train to become a CNA from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule without having to give up time at your job or with your family.

Enrolling in a CNA Program

Online CNA Class Prerequisites

In order to enroll in many CNA training courses, there are often several pre-requisites. Each program will have specific pre-requisites so it is important to consult the course information you are given. Below is a general list of common requirements for CNA training.

  • High School Diploma or GED
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check and drug screening
  • Certain physical requirements including the physical ability to move patients and work on your feet
  • At least 16 years of age (in order to work as a CNA)

The prerequisites for CNA classes online will vary; however, if you meet the above requirements, you are already on your way to being eligible for CNA training programs and becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Finding a Program
Once you have made the decision to pursue a CNA career, you must then decide where you will go to receive your training. There are many different options available. CNA training classes are offered through community colleges, technical or vocation colleges, the Red Cross, Hospitals, or Nursing Homes. There are also many offerings for online CNA training. Online CNA classes are convenient and can be a very beneficial option. Once you have chosen your desired program, you will need to complete the application process and pay all of the applicable fees. In most cases, your application will be reviewed and you will then be notified of whether or not you are qualified and able to attend the CNA training program.

Completing a Program
A CNA works under the direction of a Registered Nurse or a Licensed Practical Nurse to help meet the basic healthcare needs of vulnerable patients and care for their physical and emotional well-being. As healthcare workers, CNAs need to learn basic medical skills and terminology, as well as patient care. CNA training will typically cover topics such as patient hygiene, infection control, vital signs, nutrition, communication skills, emergency procedures, and patient comfort. CNA classes will also provide information about medical ethics and healthcare laws as well as proper preventative and safety practices. CNA classes online provide the opportunity to learn all of these skills through online study and evaluation.

In addition to completing the online “classroom” learning portion of CNA training, most states also require students to spend a certain number of hours doing on-site clinical work. It is usually fewer hours than are required in the classroom and is an important opportunity to practice the skills taught online in a real world setting. Clinical instruction usually takes place in a local nursing home, care facility, or hospital. In some cases it may also take place in a lab simulating a real world nursing care environment. Nursing assistant students are instructed in a clinical setting by a licensed supervisor who will ensure that the student is practicing proper technique and demonstrating full knowledge of patient care skills. Once a student has successfully completed both the classroom and clinical portions of a nursing assistant training program, they may then move on to pursue the state certification.

CNA State Certification
national cna class requirements

Certification for CNAs is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Some states require certification or licensure and some require both. These requirements are usually listed on state specific department of health or board of nursing websites. Once you know the specific requirements for the state in which you would like to work as a CNA, you can begin working towards certification or licensure. Most healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, private clinics, and hospitals will require their CNAs to be certified with the state and/or listed on the state registry of nursing assistants. Generally, in order to receive certification, a student must complete and pass a state approved certification exam upon completion of their CNA training program. Be sure to contact your state’s nursing board to double check your specific state requirements before enrolling in CNA classes, to verify the training will meet your state’s standards.

Steps for Taking the Certification Exam
Each individual state will have a different process for certification testing; however, generally, these are the steps that you can expect to follow in order to take a nursing assistant certification examination:

  • Submit a testing application
  • Pay testing fee
  • Submit to a criminal background check and drug test
  • Submit official transcripts or certificate showing completion of a CNA program
  • Submit proof of CPR certification
  • Meet age requirement for CNAs

The certification exam is the final step in becoming a CNA. Your CNA training program should be able to give you detailed information about applying for and completing your state’s certification exam once you complete your online CNA classes and pass your training program. The exam will usually consist of a written test with multiple choice questions. Some state certification tests also include a portion in which you will be required to demonstrate some hands on knowledge and nursing skills.

CPR and First Aid Certification
Many states require individuals who wish to take the CNA certification exam to be CPR certified as well. CPR certification is also often required by medical facilities which hire nursing assistants. Some employers may also require first aid certification. Obtaining CPR and First Aid certification will take some time and money, but it will likely benefit you long term as you pursue certification and employment as a CNA. Some CNA training programs and CNA classes online may also list CPR or First Aid certification as a prerequisite for entering the program. Being CPR and First Aid certified will be a benefit to your career if you are looking to work in the healthcare field.

Employment as a CNA

Where can a CNA work?

Nursing Assistants can find employment in many different locations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most nursing assistants find work in nursing homes, but they can also find work in hospitals, private clinics, retirement or assisted living facilities, and as home health aides. Some schools or day care centers, as well as urgent care facilities or doctor’s offices also employ CNAs. Essentially, CNAs work anywhere registered nurses are employed and may need assistance or any facility where patients are in need of monitoring and general welfare care. CNAs go by many different job titles such as nursing assistant, personal care aide, personal care attendant, home health aide, or companion care provider.

What makes a good CNA?

Certified nursing assistants work with some of the most vulnerable and fragile patients in the healthcare system. The most common type of patient is likely elderly and a resident in assisted living, nursing home, or hospice care. These types of patients can be very difficult to deal with and a job as a CNA is not always easy. CNAs often care for patients who are physically and mentally disabled and who may be scared, angry, or emotionally distant. A CNA may be the only person with which elderly patients interact on a daily basis. CNAs provide healthcare, but they also provide emotional support and companionship. Effective and kind communication skills will benefit a nursing assistant as he or she cares for his or her patients. A CNA must be able to perform their duties professionally with compassion, patience, and respect as well as a proper concern for safety and medical ethics.

A job as a CNA is not always easy. CNAs work every day of the year and are on duty 24/7. Of course, not every CNA job will require long hours or holiday time, but it is important to know that in the medical field long hours and holiday work is possible and sometimes necessary. Healthcare services do not break for holidays or weekends and patients are always in need of care. This is beneficial as it can result in flexible scheduling. CNA work can also be physically and emotionally demanding. Moving patients around can take a toll on the body and be quite tiring. Dealing with depressed patients or those with dementia can be emotionally trying. CNAs who love to help others and feel a sense of pride in doing sometimes difficult work will be well respected and enjoy their work as nursing assistants.

What does a CNA do?

CNAs are an integral part of the healthcare system. They provide for the most basic health needs of their patients. On a day-to-day basis they may perform many different types of tasks. CNAs take and report patient vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature as well as height and weight. They also assist patients with eating, dressing, and bathing when they have difficulty completing these tasks on their own. CNAs may also be called on to help transport patients from their beds to wheelchairs or from one room to another. CNAs may also dispense medications or help with bandaging and wound care as directed by a supervising nurse.

All nursing assistants, by law, work under the supervision of a registered nurse, a licensed vocational nurse, or a licensed practical nurse. Only a licensed nurse can delegate work to a CNA. CNAs may assist with charting and recording patient information as well as relaying patient needs and concerns to the head nurse or supervisor. CNAs provide necessary services for their patients or residents every day.

Employment Outlook for CNAs

As the baby boomer generation in the United Stated ages, the need for qualified healthcare workers grows. CNAs are the main providers of day-to-day care in many nursing homes and assisted living facilities, so as the populations of these facilities increases, so too will the demand for CNAs. Due to this increased demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for nursing assistants is expected to grow by 21% by the year 2022, which is faster than average. The states with the highest number of working CNAs are New York, California, Florida, and Texas. The average annual wage for CNAs, according to the BLS, is $26,250. Top CNA wage earners make around $36,000 per year. Individual wages for CNAs can vary greatly depending on the facility, geographic location, and experience level of the employee. The states with the highest annual mean wages for CNAs are Alaska, Nevada, New York, and Connecticut.

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Career Path Options for CNAs

Nursing assistants are entry level workers in the field of nursing. They perform very important work and should not be viewed as less integral than other healthcare workers. Working as a certified nursing assistant can be a personally fulfilling career for many, but for others it may be the first step towards other careers in the healthcare industry. With some more online classes and training, CNAs can receive additional certification and advance their healthcare careers.

For example, a CNA can receive additional training to become a Patient Care Technician (PCT). PCTs are trained in drawing blood, wound care, performing ECGs, inserting IVs, and operating dialysis equipment. CNAs can also receive additional education to work as Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses, or even Registered Nurses. These types of nurses take on more responsibilities for patient care and oversee CNAs. Working as a CNA will give you access to an inside look at the healthcare system and may help you decide if you are interested in pursuing further training to advance as a PCT, LPN, or RN. A career as a CNA can be an end goal in itself, but it can also serve as a stepping stone on a path to a nursing career.

Becoming a CNA Online

If you are interested in changing your career path by becoming a CNA, it is good to know that you can begin to pursue CNA training without interrupting your current work and life schedule by taking classes online. Online CNA classes are convenient and widely available. If you meet some basic requirements you could soon be on your way to a new fulfilling career as a CNA. CNAs make a difference in the lives of sick people and their families by being integral members of the healthcare team. With the growing demand for CNAs as well as the convenient access to online CNA training, now is a good time to pursue a career as a Certified Nursing Assistant by starting CNA classes online. Becoming a CNA is a great way to get into the healthcare field and can provide a stable and fulfilling career.

Emily Warren

Emily began Think CNA Online in 2016 as a resource to bring nursing career, classes and training information to aspiring nurses across the country. Focusing on Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA), Emily helps to inform students of the job description, roles and responsibilities of the career.

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