What to Expect from a CNA Program
Congratulations on deciding to help others by becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA)! However, you may be wondering: What can I expect from my CNA program? This article is here to help.
CNA Program Length and Daily Hours
CNA programs vary in length based on the schools’ offerings and state requirements. Some programs are accelerated and can be completed in as little as two weeks of 10- to 12-hour days. Most take between four and 12 weeks, meeting either daily or on certain days and often for fewer hours per session. Many programs cater to working adults and offer classes in evenings or over weekends.
In-Person Hours vs. Online Hours
Most states require a certain number of in-person hours, but some allow parts of your training to be completed online. Individual programs determine if they’ll strictly offer on-campus classes or a hybrid model. When deciding what kind of program to take, you should ask yourself: What kind of learner am I? Is it more motivating to be in a classroom of peers? Or do I need the convenience of completing the classroom hours online? Search for a program that fits your learning style.
Hands-on learning, also known as “practicals” or “clinicals,” is an essential part of CNA training. Many states require a specified number of clinical hours before being able to sit for the certification exam. You’ll often complete some basic clinical training in the classroom or skills lab. In-class training would focus on skills like taking vital signs, which are easy to learn by partnering with classmates and necessary to practice before working with patients. Other skills, such as performing a bed bath, assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs), and following instructions from nurses, are best practiced at a clinical site.
Most CNA programs will partner with local skilled nursing facilities to allow students the opportunity to practice skills in real-world situations with actual patients. A registered nurse (RN) who has trained to be a clinical site supervisor will oversee your clinical experience.
Subjects Learned During CNA Training
Topics taught in individual training programs vary, as they must meet state requirements. However, there are a few subjects you can generally expect to learn:
Basic Life Support Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (BLS CPR)
Employers expect CNAs to be certified in BLS CPR. This type of CPR differs from standard CPR because the training is more extensive—while the average person may learn to the chest pumps, a BLS CPR-certified person knows how to fully assess the situation, administer oxygen, and provide more extensive care until help arrives. Many programs offer the certification during training, though some may require you to obtain it before starting classes.
HIPAA and Patient Privacy
HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It sets the standards of maintaining and protecting the privacy of individuals seeking healthcare. In CNA training, you will the details about this law, including information about with whom you can share medical details.
Infection and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Your CNA program should teach you how to prevent infection through proper handwashing and use of PPE. PPE helps prevent the spread of disease via contact with blood, bodily fluids, or breath and may include gloves, masks, and medical gowns. You’ll learn about what types of equipment are best for different situations and the proper ways to put on and remove your PPE.
You will learn how to assist patients with ADLs, such as bathing, feeding, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and using the toilet.
Taking Vital Signs
As a CNA, you’ll be expected to take patients’ vital signs. Standard vital signs skills including taking blood pressure, monitoring a pulse, checking temperatures, and counting respirations—the things we’ve all experienced at a doctor’s appointment. Additionally, you’ll learn how to check blood sugar and oxygen saturation, as well as how to assess pain levels. By the end of your training, you should understand the normal and abnormal ranges for all these issues, how to report findings to a nurse, and how to communicate with patients about results.
Who Your Instructors Will Be
Most states have rules regarding qualifications for CNA instructors. Most states require instructors to be experienced, licensed nurses who have obtained nursing assistant training certification. Your instructors must be knowledgeable about the patient populations you’ll encounter during your clinical and work experiences. Many instructors work in this field because they love teaching, helping new students find their passions, and remember what it was like to start as a career in healthcare.
Programs Must Meet State Requirements
The requirements for training and licensure vary from state to state, and most states require programs to be accredited or approved by a governing body. The majority also mandate a set amount of classroom hours and an additional number of clinical hours. Note: If you move, some states allow you to transfer your certification from another state without additional training or retaking the exam, while others don’t. Your state’s board of nursing can give you the full details.
Certification Exam Preparation
Your certification exam is the final step in completing your CNA training. As schools want to prove the vast majority of their students passed the exam on the first try, they’re likely to work hard to prepare you for the test. Most programs offer study tips, practice exams, and group study sessions. If you’re ever confused about a topic or want additional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to your instructors for assistance.