Learn About Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)

Learn what a Certified Nursing Assistant does and find out if this is the career field for you.

The Basics

What you'll do: Working closely with patients, you are responsible for basic care services such as bathing, grooming and feeding patients, assisting nurses with medical equipment, and checking patient vital signs. CNAs give patients important social and emotional support and also provide vital information on patient conditions to nurses.

Where you'll work: Hospitals, nursing care facilities, community care facilities for the elderly

Degree you'll need: High school diploma or GED and completion of a 6-to-12 week CNA certificate program

Median annual salary: $24,420*

Who Are Certified Nursing Assistants?

certified nursing assistant

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) job puts you on the front lines of patient care. Nursing assistants are vital to daily operations in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Your compassion and skill in patient care will help minimize the stress of those who are sick or unable to care for themselves.

Certified nursing assistants, sometimes called nurses' aides, orderlies, patient care technicians, and home health aides, work under the supervision of a nurse to help patients with daily living tasks.

"The best RNs started as CNAs," says Mira Dixon, a CNA with 13 years experience. Being a CNA can be a stepping stone before becoming a registered nurse. Read the interview with a CNA for more insight about the daily aspects of the job.

Education & Certification

You can complete your certified nursing assistant program in a very short period of time. In addition to a high school diploma or GED, you'll need to complete a 6-to-12 week CNA certificate program at a community college or medical facility.

Classroom instruction in a certified nursing assistant program generally includes the following:

  • Basic nursing skills
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Infection control

Students also gain plenty of hands-on-experience during clinical activities.

Regulations on nursing assistant certification vary from state-to-state. However, most CNA programs offer a certification exam. The National Association for Home Care offers national certification for home health aides.

Start Your CNA Career

If you're ready to take the first steps toward a certified nursing assistant job, learn about your education options. Explore certified nursing assistant schools in your area, and start your career on the right foot.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Nursing Assistants and Orderlies.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

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