Thinking of a career in the medical field and not sure where to start? An excellent option is to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
However, there’s specific training you need to become a CNA. Thankfully, there are options for both online and in-person CNA programs. Online-based programs allow for greater flexibility in your schedule.
Most training programs only take a few months to complete. After your training, you’ll need to complete an exam to become a CNA.
In addition to working as a CNA, you also get the chance to pursue another nursing degree with your certification.
A certified nursing assistant (CNA) holds a special license to help nurses care for patients. They don’t have the same qualifications as registered nurses. Still, they help patient care run smoothly and ensure that a patient receives the best quality care possible.
Nurses can delegate some tasks to certified nursing assistants. CNAs handle primary patient care, so nurses can focus on the tasks that only they can do within their scope of practice.
Certified nursing assistants perform essential tasks like helping feed, dress, and bathe patients. They can also take vital signs and restock supplies. Their duties aim to ensure that a patient stays safe and avoids poor health outcomes.
Helping patients as a CNA is an essential job in the healthcare system. CNAs help maintain the dignity of each patient in a hospital or nursing home and ensure that all receive high-quality care.
In healthcare, time is valuable, and healthcare providers don’t have the luxury of time. CNAs ensure that everything a patient needs gets done on time.
For example, sometimes, nurses need to administer a patient’s medications. While on that, they need to get another patient’s vital indices. In such scenarios, CNAs can help get vitals so that nurses can focus on the medications.
Because CNAs are also actively involved in direct patient care, they can help point out changes to nurses before any serious problem arises.
They are a vital part of promoting the health and well-being of each patient. Working as a CNA allows for hands-on experience in healthcare.
The certified nursing assistant’s scope of practice will vary from state to state. Still, in general, the work of CNAs involves the following:
Vital signs can indicate changes in health and well-being. Accurate data collection is critical so that individuals can get proper medical care.
Nursing assistants, like licensed practical nurses, are responsible for taking vital signs like blood pressure.
Carrying out these activities correctly ensures that a patient stays safe. It also helps prevent poor health problems like skin breakdown.
For example, a patient on bed rest needs to be turned and repositioned to prevent bedsores.
Sometimes, a patient needs to be on special diets to stay safe and recover from illness. For example, a patient recovering from a stroke might need help eating because he has difficulty swallowing.
Ensuring adequate nutrition is also critical to promoting the overall health and recovery of a patient.
CNAs perform activities like helping patients bathe or use the toilet.
Such activities not only help patients stay clean and comfortable, but they also allow CNAs to observe and report to the nurse any changes to the patient’s baseline level of functioning.
CNAs are active healthcare team members. They can help patients get the best possible care by reporting patient needs and patient changes to nurses.
When you can become a nursing assistant depends on your state’s regulations. As noted by CNAlicense.org, some states let you work as a certified nursing assistant at 16, while others require CNAs to be at least 18 after a high school diploma.
Check your state certification requirements if you aren’t sure what the rules are in your state. Most of the time, becoming a certified nursing assistant involves completing an accredited nursing assistant course in your state and taking an exam.
Some high schools offer CNA programs alongside a high school diploma, allowing students to start work as CNAs upon high school graduation.
You can continue working as a CNA to earn income while working toward a nursing degree. Your work allows you to keep your current skills up to date and continue your hands-on primary care practice.
To become a certified nurse assistant, you’ll have to go through several steps. The specific qualifications will depend on the state where you live.
As noted by cnalicense.org and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’ll need to complete the following basic steps to become a certified nursing assistant:
CNA training programs will include both classroom time and hands-on skills practice sessions. You’ll likely practice these skills in a healthcare setting or a skills lab.
The CNA competency exam involves a written test and skills demonstration. You have to complete both parts successfully to pass the state exam.
Again, depending on your state, you may have to go through a few more steps before you can start working as a certified nursing assistant. For example, you might have to undergo fingerprinting or a criminal background check.
A CNA program can’t be 100% online because of the hands-on nature of the nursing profession. You need to possess specific hands-on skills to pass a CNA competency exam.
Therefore, an online CNA program will require you to complete in-person clinical or lab work. Usually, there’s a certain number of clinical hours you’ll need to complete before taking your competency exam. These hours will vary depending on your state.
Online CNA classes would let you complete the classwork on your schedule.
Usually, a combination of online classroom work and on-site clinical work is known as a hybrid program. So, as you search for programs, be on the lookout for this term.
You can then verify if a program is only in-person clinical time or if you need to attend some lecture time in person.
Most CNA programs allow you greater flexibility and control over your schedule. For example, if you’re working during the day, you can work on your training in the evening when you get home.
Maybe you have children and need to schedule your work around them. You might be able to focus on your classes while your kids are at school.
An online program also allows you to work at your own pace. If it ends up taking you longer, that’s fine. Or you may be able to finish the coursework faster than if you went to traditional in-person classes.
With COVID-19, an online program allows you to limit your contact with people who may be sick outside of the healthcare setting. In the healthcare setting, you’ll have better access to appropriate personal protective equipment than you might in a classroom setting.
You’ll find several colleges, high schools, and organizations that offer CNA training programs.
The critical component in your school search is to ensure the training program you choose is accredited in the state where you live and plan to work as a certified nurse aide.
Then, you can request more information about a CNA program and whether or not you can complete any of the work online.
Here are a few options of colleges that offer hybrid programs:
The American Red Cross offers a nursing assistant training program. It involves some online work, in-person classroom time, and in-person clinical time.
Pratt Community College offers the classwork work of CNA training online, but labs and clinical time are in-person.
Miles Community College offers online classwork and in-person clinical training for students in pursuit of CNA certification.
Florida Career College offers a hybrid learning experience with online lecture time and hands-on experience.
Madison provides the classroom studies partly in-person and partly online. However, this program has a more highly-structured online format that ensures you finish online assignments in a specific timeframe.
CNAs can work in various healthcare settings. It depends on your interests. If you want to transfer over to a nursing career, consider an area of care where you want to work later as a nurse.
Suppose you want to work in a hospital. In that case, you could work in a medical/surgical unit, an emergency room, or an intensive care unit. Since the hospital is a more acute setting, there’ll be a higher turnover of people needing care.
The requirements of each hospital will be a little different. So while looking for a job, ask about the qualifications for working in a specialized unit.
For example, a hospital might require you to work in the medical/surgical unit for a year before working in the emergency department. Such requirements are to help you get clinical experience.
Suppose you’re interested in working with geriatric patients. In that case, you could work in a nursing home or an assisted living facility. You could even focus your work on helping people with long-term disabilities or handicaps.
Working at these facilities allows you to build long-term connections with residents, which can be pretty rewarding.
Have you completed your accredited CNA program? Check.
Have you passed your state certification exam? Check.
Are you all cleared to work based on the qualifications in your state? Check.
Great news, you can start work as a CNA. You can work in various healthcare settings, including:
As a new nursing assistant, you might not be able to start work in a specialty area like an intensive care unit. You might need to gain experience in a less acute area first.
Usually, hospitals and facilities will have you go through a training period. The training or orientation time allows you to learn how their facility runs and their expectations for certified nursing assistants.
Suppose you choose to continue your training in the medical field. In that case, you could consider enrolling in another program like registered nursing while you continue to work as a CNA.
Have you thought about becoming a registered nurse? An excellent way to start is to become a CNA. But why?
In early classes, nursing students begin to learn the basics of patient care like taking vitals and safely transferring patients, similar to the work activities of CNAs.
Going into the healthcare field can be daunting. Becoming a certified nursing assistant can help remove some of your fear of the unknown before going into a nursing career.
If you’re already a nursing assistant, you have a strong advantage going into a nursing program. You’re familiar with helping people and assisting them with daily activities.
But one of the best advantages of starting as a CNA is that it allows you to respect the work of all members of the healthcare team. It helps you see every role as essential and not look down on people just because you “outrank” them on the healthcare hierarchy.
CNA jobs are in high demand, with several career opportunities. Starting early with a CNA job can help you jumpstart your career, a field where jobs are also in high demand.
Working as a certified nursing assistant can also help you decide if working in the healthcare field is a good fit.
Ultimately, working as CNA allows you to help people and make a difference in their lives. There are few things more rewarding than that. Ready to get started?
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