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What does a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) do?

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) provides care to the chronically ill, disabled, and elderly with activities of daily living. They assist patients with eating and can take vital signs like blood pressure or temperature. This care can sometimes be 24 hours around the clock and last months or years pending on the patient’s stay or needs.

Watch a video to learn what a Certified Nursing Assistant (or CNA) does.

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How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

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You can use a CNA certification as a stepping stone to becoming a nurse. There are many programs that offer bridge programs that allow CNA’s to transition to become an LPN (Licensed Practice Nurse). These programs may or may not take your CNA experience and certification into consideration when applying. However, this experience can prove valuable when in an LPN program. It can take as little as six to twelve weeks to get certified as a CNA.

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) are required to complete state approved programs or vocational training accredited or approved by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Programs are offered at vocational schools, community colleges, or medical facilities and usually are 3-12 weeks long. Training includes book work and clinical experience that focuses on proper ergonomics, positioning, basic care, vital signs, CPR, and first aid. In addition to attending school you must get certified and pass a criminal background.

Certifications vary by state though most require you to pass the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) competency exam. The NNAAP consists of a written and clinical stimulation portion where you must demonstrate mastery of taught skills. According to the NCSBN, once you pass this exam, you are listed in the state registry. This assures employers that you have met the federal and state requirements to practice as a CNA in the state you reside in. Therefore, it may be beneficial to ask the CNA program you are applying to and what their pass rate is. The higher the rate the better your odds will be in passing the NNAAP exam.

Job Description of a CNA

CNA’s work under the direction of a nurse and perform basic care to patients. These tasks can include cleaning and bathing patients, helping them dress, and assisting them to use the toilet or bed pan. CNAs also monitor patient communications such as notifications for assistance. They may also help perform with other non-care tasks such as transporting patients to and from dining areas or rehabilitation therapy sessions.

Certified Nursing Assistants may also help with the patient’s diet, making sure their food meets their health requirements and avoids any reported allergies. They may also report any noticeable changes in their patient’s health and mental state. They must also lift and turn patients and help them get in and out of bed or a wheelchair. Therefore, this position can require a great deal of physical stamina as lifting patients and standing long hours on their feet may be demanding. A nursing assistant must also have good communication skills, be compassionate, and be patient to those under their care.

Nursing Assistant Video Transcript

Every hospital, clinic, and nursing home needs a team of skilled professionals to provide personal care to patients, and nursing assistants play a key role. Nursing assistants answer patient call signals, turn or reposition bedridden patients, and ensure each patient receives the appropriate diet. They help patients with daily living activities such as getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, walking, and exercising.

Nursing assistants measure vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature. They gather, observe, and listen to patients’ health concerns, then document and share them with supervising licensed practical nurses and registered nurses. People in this field use technology such as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), billing software, health information databases, and medical record software. Knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word is helpful.

Nursing assistants must complete state-approved training, lasting between a few months to a year, then pass their state’s certification exam. They work in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals, home health agencies, doctor’s offices and long-term care facilities or nursing homes. Communication with coworkers and patients is a key aspect of a nursing assistant’s job. Their role is vital to patients’ daily health and well-being.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nursing Assistants.

National Center for O*NET Development. 31-1014.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.