Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Classes

Becoming a certified nursing assistant does not require you to obtain a college degree, but it does require you to successfully complete a CNA program. You can become a certified nursing assistant straight out of high school. Although you need a high school diploma or GRE diploma, training to become a certified nursing assistant may only take a few weeks.


Completing a CNA training program is an excellent way to enter the nursing field or other medical professions. Academic parts of CNA programs are available online or face to face, and some practical/clinical work will also be required. You will also need to complete a competency examination to obtain a license to practice in your state.


Certified nursing assistant training programs cover basic nursing skills. They also teach students the laws and ethics around patient care as well as how to effectively perform in a work environment.


What is a certified nursing assistant?

A certified nurse assistant is sometimes also called a nursing aide, certified nurse aide, or licensed nursing assistant – titles vary by state. They provide basic care and help patients in nursing and residential care facilities and hospitals with their daily activities. They report to licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses.


Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) have basic nursing skills. They can expect to complete a variety of tasks each day – and each day, these tasks might change according to the needs of the individuals in their care. Their tasks could include everything from helping the person bathe to measuring their vital signs. They are also sometimes required to serve meals and record and report their patient’s health concerns to nurses or other medical professionals. In some states, certified nursing assistants are able to give their patients medication.


How do you become a certified nurse assistant?

You will need a high school or GRE diploma to be accepted into a certified nursing assistant training course. In most cases, you will need to complete a state-approved education program in order to become a certified nursing assistant. These CNA classes consist of teachings on the principles of nursing along with supervised clinical work or training hours. The clinical training hours give prospective CNA’s hands-on clinical experience, and many states require a minimum number of these hours to be completed for someone to become licensed as a certified nursing assistant.


CNA classes are offered by high schools, community colleges, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and vocational and technical schools. Health organizations like the American Red Cross also offer CNA classes and training programs.


As a recent CNA graduate, you will also likely need to complete an on-the-job training program provided by your employer to get up to speed with their policies and procedures. This is not a certification requirement. Instead, it is training provided by the employer to ensure their staff is engaged in the same practices and procedures and upholding the company’s standards.


The certification, licensing, and registration requirements for certified nursing assistants vary by state. Most states require that a nursing assistant hold a state-issued license or certification. This is usually obtained by passing a competency exam after completing an approved educational program. Once you have passed the competency exam, you will be added to the state registry. You need to be listed in this registry if you want to work in a nursing home.


After successfully completing your CNA training and having passed your competency examination, you have a set amount of time to submit your certification application. Your application will likely need to be accompanied by any applicable fees, and you might need to undergo fingerprinting and a criminal background check. These requirements vary from state to state.


What do CNA programs entail?

Most CNA training courses are between four and twelve weeks long and, on average, have about 15 credits. These programs cover both academic studies and practical experience gained under the guidance of working nurses.


CNA students get hands-on experience in taking care of patients (sometimes in a simulated environment). They learn how to take care of patients in various settings. These settings could include nursing care facilities, hospitals, and patient’s homes. The CNA coursework covers the common conditions that you might encounter when working as a certified nursing assistant. Common conditions that are covered include respiratory issues, diabetes, and cognitive impairments.


CNA trainees will also learn basic wound care, giving (but not dispensing) oral and topical medications and oxygen, removing peripheral and indwelling catheters, and infection control. Other course components cover providing special care for the elderly and infants, basic patient care, and patient rights. It also covers how to help patients with personal care like bathing and moving them into different positions in bed or transitioning to chairs or wheelchairs.

CNA students also get trained in anatomy and physiology and checking patients’ vital signs. Other course components provide First Aid, CPR, and AED (automated external defibrillator) use.

The course could also cover topics that prepare students for employment, such as communication and workplace safety. They are also taught how to protect themselves from sustaining injuries while at work. This includes learning how to safely lift and transfer patients, using proper body mechanics when helping patients, and maintaining a safe and clean environment.


Certified Nursing Assistant Specialty Certifications

Besides the general certified nursing assistant certification issued by certain states, you can also work towards adding certifications in specialized areas to your skillset. Obtaining these specialty certifications often includes additional education and experience requirements. However, persons holding specialty certifications are likely to earn a higher salary. Here are some specialized areas that certified nursing assistants can move into:

  •         CNA II – this advanced training is offered to certified nursing assistants by some state boards.
  •         Certified Alzheimer caregiver – through the National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care.
  •         Certified Hospice and palliative nursing assistant – issued by Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.
  •         Certified wound care associate – issued by the American Board of Wound Management.
  •         Medication aide certification – issued by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc.


What is the difference between a certified nurse assistant (CNA) and a licensed practical nurse (LPN)?

Certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses have many overlapping responsibilities. The difference between the two professions is that licensed practical nurses have some degree of independent authority and report to a registered nurse. On the other hand, a certified nursing assistant cannot make independent decisions about their patient’s medical care. They report to licensed practical nurses. Essentially a licensed practical nurse is slightly higher up in the professional hierarchy than certified nursing assistants.


Education programs to become a licensed practical nurse takes around one year to complete. These courses are more intensive than those covered for a certified nursing assistant program. Licensed practical nursing coursework could include education on medical dosage and administration, pathophysiology, and legal implications on your actions. It also includes studies on specialized care and touches on obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, geriatrics, and other specialized niches in the medical field.


To become a licensed practical nurse, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). The NCLEX-PN is a nationally recognized qualification that allows holders to work in any state. A license issued to an LPN is valid for two years from the date that it was issued. Holders need to participate in continuous professional education in order to renew their licenses. They also need to have held a paid position in the medical field for a set amount of time.


There is a significant disparity in salaries earned by certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses. According to the Bureau of labor statistics, the average annual salary for a CNA was $29,640 in 2019. In contrast, licensed practical nurses earned $47,480 on average in the same period. These are the average salary for each profession, with half of the individuals in each profession earning more and half earning less than this amount. The salary of these two professions varies by state but licensed practical nurses generally earn more than certified nursing assistants.


What is the CNA competency exam?


The CNA competency exam is a licensing requirement in most states. This exam is not a national exam. Instead, each state independently sets and conducts its own CNA competency exam.


Although the certified nursing assistant competency exam varies from state to state, most of them have two parts. The written or oral section is usually delivered in a group format. It often consists of a number of multichoice questions that aim at testing candidates’ theoretical knowledge. This part of the exam covers topics like physiology, anatomy, medical terminology, and CNA roles and responsibilities, amongst other things. A third party usually proctors the written section of the exam.


On the other hand, the clinical skills exam is proctored by a nurse or other medical practitioner. The clinical skills section is done one-on-one. The proctor will ask the test taker to demonstrate various skills. These skills could include measuring and recording a pulse, hand washing, assisting a patient with various tasks. Proctors can choose skills from a list of over twenty options. The skills test is scenario-based. That means instead of demonstrating randomly chosen skills, candidates will be required to complete a set of skills in a logical order as they might encounter them in a real-life setting.


Since the certified nursing assistant program covers a wide variety of topics, the competency exam will do the same. Some of the topics that you might be tested on could include:

  •         Data collection, recording, and reporting.
  •         Where to locate and take a patient’s pulse.
  •         Interacting with a patient’s family.
  •         Patient rights.
  •         Patient’s cultural needs.
  •         How to effectively control infections.
  •         Law and ethics involving patient care.
  •         How to handle different moods and behavior changes in your patients.
  •         When to notify your supervisor or a charge nurse about changes in a patient’s condition.


Once issued, a certified nursing assistant certificate is valid for two years. CNA’s need to work in the nursing field for a specific number of hours to maintain certification. This number of hours depends on individual state requirements.


Because the certified nursing assistant competency exam is a state exam that varies from state to state, it is not always transferrable. That means if you move to a different state, you may need to take the exam in that state to qualify for certification and licensure.


However, some states will allow you to apply for a certification endorsement instead of retaking the exam. In this case, your new state will evaluate and approve or endorse your existing credentials to ensure that they meet the CNA certification requirements in that state. You will need to meet specific training and work experience requirements and hold an active CNA license from another state to be eligible for endorsement.


Nurse assistant training is the first step into the nursing profession. From here, you can progress to other fields in health care. As a certified nursing assistant, you could work in a hospital, long term care facility, or patient’s private homes under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Training includes academic studies and a clinical component where you can develop your skills in a real-life setting.


A CNA training program covers basic nursing skills, practical experience, and education on how to stay safe in the work environment. High school graduates can complete their CNA training and enter a career in healthcare in a few weeks. After completing their training, CNA candidates will need to pass their state’s competency exam before they can be listed in their state’s registry as a certified nursing assistant.


Certified nursing assistants have the potential to progress in their careers to become licensed practical nurses. They could also choose to pursue additional education in order to specialize in a specific niche.