5 Tips Before Starting CNA Training
Becoming a CNA is an exciting and ever-evolving career path with plenty of opportunity for professional development, rewarding and meaningful interactions with a variety of populations, and endless potential for career advancement.
While committing to a career in nursing is exciting, it can also be overwhelming. There are many things to consider before embarking on this path. Below are 5 important factors to contemplate when deciding if CNA school is right for you and choosing a program once you are ready to enroll.
1. Set a Career Goal
The foundation of any nursing career should begin with the question of why do you want to help people and in what capacity do you want to achieve this goal? There are endless paths a career in nursing can take, from the hands-on, direct patient care performed by CNAs, to the higher-level critical thinking and decision making of advanced practice nurses, and everything in between. Becoming a CNA may be your first step towards a much more long-term goal, or it may be the perfect fit for your life and career objectives right now; either way, it is important to think futuristically and let your long term career goals help guide your choices for when and where to start your nursing education.
2. Research Schools
There are likely to be many options for CNA training in your area. Choosing the right program for you can make a world of difference in your schooling experience and preparedness upon graduation. Most programs take between 4 and 12 weeks to complete a combination of classroom and clinical practice hours. The length of your program will depend on how often and how long classes meet each week in order to achieve the required number of hours. Class sizes vary but are typically less than 20 students at a time, due to the hands-on nature of the training. Upon completion of the program, students must pass a state CNA exam to obtain licensure and begin working. Things to consider when choosing the right school or program include:
- Your availability: Consider how quickly or slowly you want to complete the program. If you are balancing another job, a family, or other responsibilities, you may want a program that gives you more flexibility to work around classes and clinical hours. Or if you are eager to get started, you may want to dive right into an intensive four-week program that gets you into the workforce sooner.
- Reputation of the school or program: This is an important factor, as you will be attaching the reputation of your school to your own professional identity. Consider community opinions about various programs. Ask area nurse managers or friends and family who have been patients recently what they think of the quality of care provided by CNAs from various programs. Former students should generally be able to tell you what they liked or didn’t like about a program and if they felt well prepared for the workforce upon graduation. It is also a good idea to ask someone from the administrative department of a program what percentage of students pass their certification exam on the first attempt.
3. Consider the Cost of the Program
Financial impact is a huge driving force for many people as they consider their best options, and different schools or lengths of programs will cost varying amounts. Investigate the potential for scholarship opportunities or workplace tuition reimbursement to help minimize your financial burden and avoid taking out loans. Consider options like free CNA training, which pairs you with an employer and covers the cost of tuition, an excellent choice for anyone who wants to avoid hefty bills and have the guarantee of employment upon graduation.
4. Network with CNAs and MAs
Take the initiative to connect with others in the profession and ask to interview them or job shadow for a few hours. Not only does this help make connections which may be useful when applying for jobs later on, but it also gives you the opportunity to see what the profession is like up close. Trying to visualize a typical day in the healthcare setting is vastly different than actually witnessing these professionals in action and seeing what tasks, challenges, and rewards the role includes. This enhanced perspective can help you decide if CNA training is right for you and can even help you work through the details of your own career goals (as discussed above).
5. Establish a Professional Work Ethic – Be a Stand-out!
Achieving success in your chosen program and in the workforce once you get there all depends on your work ethic and the professional identity you set out to create for yourself. Nursing is a fast-paced, demanding, and hands-on profession that relies heavily on teamwork and flexibility. Diving right in and establishing yourself as a hard-working team player will not only help you create strong and lasting relationships with your peers but will help you achieve greater job satisfaction in the long run, too. There are many opportunities for leadership roles and career advancement within the nursing profession and establishing yourself as a star student and worker will help you gain the most reward from these opportunities. Some of the top characteristics of a “stand-out” student and worker are:
- Dedication: Show dedication to your patients, your peers, and your quality of work. Dedicated workers are on time, give their best effort, and are always looking for places where they can help others.
- Flexibility: One important thing to realize about healthcare is it is unpredictable. Textbook and lab simulation scenarios are always going to be different when real people are involved, so be ready to think on your feet, compromise, and get creative.
- Attention to detail: Not only does being detail oriented improve the quality of your work, but it also helps keep you organized and prevent errors from occurring, which can be a serious matter in the healthcare setting. On a smaller scale, the details are where patients and families really see how much you care about them and their comfort and health!
- Honesty: Open communication is key to a smoothly running unit or office. If you don’t know how to complete a task or answer a question, say so…and then find someone to help you figure it out! It is always better to be open and honest about a situation than try to cover up a weak area or a mistake which could compromise safety of patients and peers. Mistakes do happen and when they do, it is important to own up to them and figure out how to do better next time.