How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)


Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) play a vital role in healthcare by providing essential support to patients under the supervision of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. They are responsible for various tasks, including bathing and dressing patients, taking vital signs, and assisting with mobility. In this article, we will discuss the steps to becoming a CNA and embarking on a rewarding career in healthcare.

Understanding the Role of a CNA

Job Responsibilities

CNAs work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Assisting patients with personal care tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming
  • Measuring and recording vital signs, such as temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rate
  • Helping patients with mobility, transfers, and range of motion exercises
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families
  • Observing and reporting any changes in patients’ conditions to nurses and other healthcare professionals

Essential Qualities

To be successful as a CNA, you should possess the following qualities:

  • Empathy and compassion for patients and their families
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail and the ability to follow instructions
  • Physical stamina to perform tasks that require standing, bending, and lifting
  • Patience and resilience when working in a challenging and fast-paced environment

Educational Requirements and Training

Complete High School or Obtain a GED

To enroll in a CNA training program, you must have a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. These basic educational requirements ensure that you have the foundational skills necessary to succeed in a CNA training program.

Enroll in a State-Approved CNA Training Program

Community colleges, vocational schools, and some healthcare facilities offer CNA training programs. These programs typically last 4 to 12 weeks and include both classroom instruction and clinical practice. The curriculum covers essential topics such as:

  • Basic nursing skills
  • Infection control
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Patient Rights and Ethics

Ensure that your state’s nursing board approves the training program you choose, as this is a requirement for certification.

Complete Clinical Hours

As part of your CNA training program, you will be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed nurse. The number of required hours varies by state, but typically ranges from 75 to 150 hours. During your clinical experience, you will have the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge you’ve learned in the classroom to real-life patient care situations.

Obtaining Certification

Pass Your State’s CNA Competency Exam

Upon completion of your CNA training program, you must pass a state competency exam to become certified. This exam typically consists of two parts:

  1. Written Exam: Multiple-choice questions covering topics such as nursing procedures, patient care, and medical terminology.
  2. Skills Evaluation: A practical exam where you must demonstrate various CNA skills, such as hand hygiene, measuring vital signs, and assisting with patient mobility, under the supervision of an evaluator.

It is essential to review your state’s specific exam requirements, as they may vary slightly. Many states also offer practice exams and study materials to help you prepare for the test.

Apply for Certification and Register with Your State’s Nursing Board

Once you have successfully passed the CNA competency exam, you must apply for certification and register with your state’s nursing board. This process typically involves submitting an application form, proof of completion of a state-approved training program, and exam results. You may also be required to undergo a background check and provide proof of immunizations.

Upon approval of your application, you will receive your CNA certification and be added to your state’s nurse aide registry. This allows potential employers to verify your credentials and ensures that you are qualified to work as a CNA.

Finding Employment

Prepare Your Resume and Cover Letter

Create a professional resume and cover letter highlighting your CNA training, clinical experience, and relevant certifications. Emphasize your skills and qualities that make you a strong candidate for a CNA position, such as your ability to communicate effectively with patients, attention to detail, and physical stamina.

Apply for CNA Positions

Begin your job search by applying for CNA positions in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare agencies. You can search for job openings through online job boards, healthcare facility websites, or local newspapers.

Attend Job Fairs and Networking Events

Job fairs and networking events can be valuable opportunities to connect with potential employers and learn about job openings in your area. Bring copies of your resume and be prepared to discuss your qualifications and interest in working as a CNA.

Utilize Your Training Program’s Resources

Many CNA training programs offer job placement assistance or have connections with local healthcare facilities. Reach out to your instructors or the program’s career services department to inquire about job leads or networking opportunities.

Advancing Your Career

Pursue Continuing Education

As a CNA, staying up-to-date on the latest developments in patient care and healthcare practices is essential. Many states require CNAs to complete certain continuing education hours to maintain their certification. In addition to meeting these requirements, pursuing additional training in areas such as infection control, dementia care, or palliative care can enhance your skills and make you more marketable to employers.

Obtain Additional Certifications

Obtaining specialized certifications can help you advance your career and increase your earning potential. Some popular certifications for CNAs include:

  • Certified Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)
  • Certified EKG Technician (CET)
  • Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT)

Consider Pursuing a Higher Degree in Nursing

If you are interested in furthering your career in healthcare, consider pursuing a higher degree in nursing, such as becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN). These roles offer increased responsibilities, greater autonomy, and higher earning potential. Many nursing programs offer credit for your CNA training, which can shorten the time it takes to complete your degree.

By following these steps and dedicating time and effort to your professional development, you can successfully become a Certified Nursing Assistant and make a meaningful impact on the lives of patients and their families.