How to Become a CNA
Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are crucial caregivers. They help their patients stay safe, be comfortable, and maintain their dignity as they navigate the daily challenges of aging or living with acute health conditions. CNAs provide hands-on care, helping patients to bathe, dress, and eat. They monitor patients and communicate with other members of the patient’s medical team to ensure a high standard of care.
Because CNAs are in great demand and the education requirements are minimal, this career choice is ideal for those who want their first foothold into the healthcare field, or new high school grads. It is also a good way for you to get a taste of what working with patients is like if you have dreams of becoming a nurse.
This page will help you understand the steps involved in becoming a CNA. You’ll learn about CNA training programs, including time expenditure, cost, and what the training entails. You’ll also learn how to take the final step to becoming a CNA — getting licensed.
Become a CNA
There are essentially four steps involved in becoming a CNA:
- Obtaining a high school diploma or GED
- Completing a certified nursing assistant training program
- Taking a state-specific CNA certification exam and becoming licensed
- Maintaining your license with continuing education hours, as mandated by your state
Completing a CNA Training Program
In order to enroll for a CNA training program, you must provide evidence of having obtained a high school diploma or GED. Some programs also require students to undertake a criminal background check, and some may require a tuberculosis test as well as a physical exam.
There are many training programs available, most of which involve a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, clinical experience. While some programs may be available online, nearly all will require that you spend a certain number of hours working in a clinical setting.
What Does It Cost to Become a CNA?
The average cost of CNA training in 2018 was $1,100. However, there are CNA training programs that are fully subsidized, meaning that all classes are free. Some training programs will even match you to a job before you start the program, giving you a guarantee that the hours you put into training will pay off right away.
You will also need to pay a fee for taking the CNA exam, which is required in order for you to obtain your CNA license. The fees are generally less than $100, depending on your state.
(Learn more about Premier Nursing Academy’s CNA training program, which is offered to qualified trainees at no cost, including the CNA exam.)
How Long Does It Take to Become a CNA?
CNA education programs typically last an average of 10 weeks, including clinical hours. However, there are fast-track programs available that you can complete in 4 to 6 weeks. One such program is the Premier Nursing Academy CNA training program.
You also need to factor in the time it takes to become licensed . This can vary, depending on your state’s requirements and the frequency of test openings. However, with state-approved training programs such as the one offered by Premier Nursing Academy, graduates are provisionally approved to begin work as a CNA even before passing the CNA exam.
What Will the Training Be Like?
Most certified nursing assistant training programs consist of two components: in-class courses and a clinical experience.
Although CNA classes may vary somewhat according to the program, you can typically expect to take courses in:
- CPR/First Aid
- Infection control
- The art of caregiving
- Workplace safety
You will also learn how to take vital signs, help patients perform range of motion exercises, document patient care services and report observations to the nursing staff, assist patients in daily activities such as eating and bathing, and communicate and interact with other healthcare workers.
During clinical training, you will work under the supervision of a licensed nurse to apply the skills and knowledge you learned in the classroom. This real-world experience is an important component in preparing you to become a successful CNA.
Getting Your License
To become a certified nursing assistant, you will need to obtain your CNA license.
Nursing assistant program graduates are not fully certified until they pass a state-specific certification exam — although some states will let you work for several months after you get your certificate if you are waiting to take your CNA exam.
The CNA exam is often administered by a third-party test provider, depending on the state, and is divided into two parts — a written portion and a clinical portion. The written portion is in a multiple-choice format and can be taken on a computer. The clinical skills portion of the test requires you to demonstrate important skills in front of a clinical evaluator. Tested skills might include:
- Taking and recording patient blood pressure
- Feeding, bathing, and dressing a patient
- Helping with range of motion exercises
- Maintaining a sterile environment
- Communicating with a patient and healthcare team
Individual states determine their own definition of a passing score, but it is often approximately 70% to 80%. Make sure that you understand your state’s requirements by contacting your state board or NCSBN.
Once you have passed the exam, you will be placed on your state’s registry of CNAs, and you can begin your career as a CNA anywhere in the state.
A number of states also require that you complete a specified number of hours of continuing education classes on a regular basis (for example, every two years). Usually a percentage of the hours involve in-service training.