Working as a certified nursing assistant, or CNA is one of the most rewarding jobs out there due to the fact you play a vital role in people’s lives. It is also a great stepping stone into the world of nursing, as it gives you a range of growth opportunities and income-earning potential. However, you might find yourself wondering how long does it take to become a CNA if you are considering this career pathway.
The good news is you can become a CNA in a relatively short period of time. Let's look at what a CNA is, how to become one, and the length it takes in a little more detail.
What Is a CNA?
A certified nursing assistant is an entry-level healthcare worker who works under the supervision of registered healthcare professionals in administering health care. These professionals include nurses, physicians, optometrists, and pharmacists. Certified nursing assistants can also work with healthcare providers. Although considered part of the nursing profession, a CNA is not the same as a nurse because they "assist" in nursing work.
Working as a CNA, you'll be the backbone of healthcare. You'll work closely with patients, spending more time with them than nurses and doctors. Your training will equip you to understand a patient’s attitude, take vital signs, assess pain points, and effectively communicate this information to the primary care staff. That is why CNAs are instrumental in delivering excellent care.
While some CNAs move on to become registered nurses, among other things, others are content with the role and make it their full-time career. Here are some of the duties of a CNA:
- Ensure that a person can eat, bathe, dress, go to the toilet, and are comfortable (changing the linens, fluffing pillows, and ensuring items are in reach).
- See to a person when they have a need or a question.
- Let nurses know when there is an emergency.
- Help with mobilizing a person.
- Assist with medical procedures that are tricky to perform by a doctor or nurse alone.
What Do You Need To Become a CNA?
You need to fulfill a few requirements before becoming a certified nursing assistant and looking for employment. You can complete them by following the steps below.
Step 1: Get a High School Diploma or GED
Most states require a high school diploma or GED (General Education Development). Once you have either of these credentials, you can begin your CNA training right away.
Step 2: Complete a State Approved CNA Program
Many institutions offer CNA training, but you need to ensure that the program you're taking is state-approved. Check with your state board of nursing to ensure that you're taking an accredited training program. You can find CNA classes at your local community colleges, medical facilities, or even the Red Cross.
Step 3: Get Clinical Experience
On top of completing your CNA training program, you'll also need to get clinical experience from your local hospital or medical facility. This will give you hands-on experience in the day-to-day tasks of a CNA and help you apply your knowledge in a real-world scenario. The good thing is that you'll have a registered nurse or CNA guiding you throughout.
A minimum of 75 hours of CNA classes and clinical experience is required before you can enter the profession as a CNA yourself. This requirement is a federal mandate, which requires you to verify that you can meet the profession's demands in an actual health care setting.
Step 4: Pass the CNA Certification Exam
Although you'll get many assessments during your CNA training program, this is the final one. It needs to be administered by a state-approved third-party provider. Once you pass the exam, you can expect your name to appear on your state's registry of certified nursing assistants. That way, when potential employers perform a background check, they'll see that you're registered as a certified nursing assistant.
Step 5: Work as a CNA
Now that you're a registered CNA, you can find exciting work opportunities in the healthcare sector. Certified nursing assistants work in several healthcare settings part-time or full time, including:
- Government facilities
- Rehabilitation centers
- Nursing homes
- Home healthcare agencies
- Assisted living and retirement communities
When choosing where to work as you start your career, consider both your long-term and short-term professional goals, along with your preferences and lifestyle. Working in the field is also a great way to maintain your certification, as you are required to work a certain number of hours annually(depending on your state) to renew your certification. You can even use the certificate to continue your education by becoming, for example, an Advanced CNA or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse).
How Long Does It Take To Become a CNA?
There's no simple answer to this question, as it depends on several factors, including the program you're taking and how ready you are to take the exam afterward. However, it usually takes 4-12 weeks to become a certified nursing assistant. In some instances, it can take longer with some people training for six months or more if the course covers the topics at length.
An Opportunity to Work as a CNA
A job as a CNA allows you to work in the hospitality sector, providing short-term and long-term care to a wide variety of patients. Now, that you know how long it takes to become a CNA, take the leap and start an exciting new career today by starting a CNA certification course. You can start working in the healthcare field in 4-12 months.
There's a promising career ahead of you, whether you choose to remain a CNA or use the certification to advance your career. If you want to work as a CNA, you can get more info from Integrity, Inc. Check out our careers page to find out about the latest CNA opportunities.