Are you thinking of becoming a CNA?
Certified Nurse Assistants play a crucial role in the healthcare team, and becoming one is the fastest way to get into the nursing field. Not to mention that there will be many job opportunities for you!
But, at this point, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the requirements and the processes to become one.
It can get pretty confusing, right?
Don’t worry! That’s exactly why we are here…
We’ll give you a simple five-step process of how to become a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant).
Since the process may differ slightly per state, we’ll give you easy access to find out the requirements in your specific state.
We’ll also answer common questions that you may be thinking of, such as:
- What do CNAs do?
- Where do CNAs usually work?
- How much do CNAs usually earn?
- What states pay the highest salary to CNAs?
- Will I need to sit for an exam again if my license is expired?
- Do I need to take the CNA exam again if I am already a CNA in another state?
If you’re ready, let’s dive in!
How to Become a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) – Five Simple Steps
Becoming a CNA is the fastest and simplest way for you to start working as a nurse.
The process is not that complicated, and you can finish this in less than a year!
So, let’s discuss the five steps you need to take:
- Fulfill the Requirements to Enroll in a CNA Program
- Finish a CNA Training Program or Get Equivalent Training
- Register with Your State’s CNA Regulating Board
- Pass a State-Approved CNA Examination
- Keep Your Certification Active and Pursue Further Education
How to Become a CNA Step #1: Fulfill the Requirements to Enroll in a CNA Program
The requirements to enroll in a CNA program differ per state.
It’s worth noting that almost all the states require you to present a high school diploma or a GED result as a minimum requirement.
But there are some states, like Texas, that do not require a high school diploma. They only require a minimum age and a criminal background check.
Some other things you may be asked to present include a physical/medical checkup and complete immunization records.
Be sure to check your state’s requirements for more details, as well as the specific school you are interested in.
How to Become a CNA Step #2: Finish a CNA Training Program or Get Equivalent Training
Once you satisfy all the requirements, it’s time for you to get the proper training to become a CNA.
Depending on the state you are in, there are different paths for you to choose from – enroll in a state-approved program, get equivalent training, or challenge the exam.
Enroll in a State-Approved Program
The most straightforward path to ensure proper training is to enroll in a state-approved CNA program.
The CNA program lasts about 6-12 weeks, depending on your pace and the minimum number of hours required by your state.
There are even some accelerated CNA programs that can be completed in 4 weeks!
All the programs will have classroom (or online) instruction, as well as in-person clinical training.
Some of the courses you will be expected to take include anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, interpersonal skills, personal care and hygiene, and basic nursing care.
You will also be taught how to do basic nursing procedures, such as patient bathing, dressing, and feeding.
This part of your training is usually done in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.
You will gain hands-on clinical experience and get a feel of what being a CNA is really like.
You will also be assessed by your supervising LPN or RN on whether you have gained adequate clinical skills or not.
Get Equivalent Training
Aside from enrolling in a state-approved program, some states consider different forms of training equivalent to CNA training.
This means that you don’t need to enroll in a CNA program anymore, as long as you have another form of training that ensures you have the necessary knowledge and skills of a CNA.
Some forms of training that may be considered equivalent include military training, graduating from an RN/LVN program, or even currently studying in an RN/LVN program.
You just need to check with your specific state if they allow you to avail of these equivalency programs, and the minimum number of hours that are required.
Challenge the CNA Exam
Some states, like Florida, Iowa, and North Carolina, even make the whole CNA training optional!
They allow you to “challenge” the CNA exam without necessarily taking a CNA course or its equivalent.
This option has its risks, of course.
You want to make sure that you have the necessary knowledge and skills before taking your CNA exam, otherwise, you may need to keep retaking it.
But if you are feeling confident enough to challenge the exam, then good for you! Some states will allow you to do this.
How to Become a CNA Step #3: Register with Your State’s CNA Regulating Board
After getting the proper training, the next step is to register with the board that regulates CNA practice in your state.
This may differ depending on the state though.
In some states, you need to pass the CNA exam before you register.
The requirements for application also differ per state, and whether you graduated from a CNA program or completed an equivalent training instead.
In general, though, you may be asked for the following:
- A completed application form
- Your high school diploma or GED
- Proof of training – either a Transcript of Records or a DD-214 (for military training)
- A criminal background check (fingerprint scan)
- Immunization records
For easier access to the different requirements per state, you can look at the table below.
How to Become a CNA Step #4: Pass a State-Approved CNA Examination
In order to become a CNA, you need to take a CNA exam approved by your state.
Many states partner with either National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP)/Pearson Vue or Prometric to administer their CNA exams.
Other states offer their own CNA exams through universities, community colleges, or other testing centers.
In general, though, there will always be two parts to the exams – a knowledge portion (either written or oral) and a clinical skills portion.
The knowledge portion is composed of multiple-choice items. If English is not your first language, you may opt to take this part of the exam orally instead.
The clinical skills portion is where you need to demonstrate at least 4-5 nursing skills (some of which are randomly selected).
In order to pass this exam, there are many practice tests available online.
In case you don’t make it on the first try, you have several attempts to retake the exam… of course, there will be fees associated with retaking exams.
How to Become a CNA Step #5: Keep Your Certification Active and Pursue Further Education
If you pass your CNA exam and are included in the CNA registry… Congratulations!
You have come so far already!
The next step is to find a job and start pursuing your dream of working as a CNA.
But keep in mind that you need to keep your certification active!
Different states have different requirements for keeping your certification active… including a number of contact hours or a number of paid hours working as a CNA (with proof of being paid).
You will usually need to submit the requirements every two years so that your certificate won’t expire.
And remember! Having an active certificate is necessary for you to continue working as a CNA!
Aside from the contact hours, you can also pursue further education.
Working as a CNA is a great starting point to pursue other nursing careers, such as an LPN or an RN course.
You can also pursue CNA specialty certifications such as:
- CNA II
- Certified Alzheimer Caregiver
- Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant
- Certified Wound Care Associate
- Medication Aide Certification
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA)
Now that you know the five steps to become a CNA, you may still be left with some questions in your head.
Here, we will try to answer some of the questions you may be thinking of.
What do CNAs do?
CNAs work under the supervision of LPNs or RNs.
When you are a CNA, you will help patients with basic health procedures and daily activities. You will also monitor the patient’s condition.
Some of the CNA tasks include:
- Turning or repositioning bedridden patients
- Taking vital signs (such as body temperature and blood pressure)
- Feeding the patient and recording their food and liquid intake
- Documenting and reporting the patient’s health issues to the nurses
- Cleaning rooms and changing bed linens
- Dressing the patient’s wounds
- Bathing the patient
- Combing the hair, cutting the nails, and brushing the teeth of the patient
- Stocking medical supplies
Where do CNAs usually work?
CNAs have a lot of job options!
You can work in hospitals, long-term residential facilities, rehabilitation centers, and adult daycare centers. Some may also find work in doctor’s clinics or other outpatient offices.
How much do CNAs usually earn?
The national estimate for the mean annual wage of CNAs is $33, 250. The mean hourly wage is $15.99.
What states pay the highest salary to CNAs?
Based on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states are Alaska, New York, and California.
Will I need to sit for an exam again if my license is expired?
This depends on the state you are in…
Most states will require you to retake the CNA exam. Some will even require you to retake both the training program and the CNA exam.
In other words… Just make sure your license doesn’t get expired!
Do I need to take the CNA exam again if I am already a CNA in another state?
Again, this will depend on the state you are in.
Usually though, if you are an active CNA without any criminal background and with a good record, you will be able to apply for a CNA license in another state by reciprocity or endorsement.
This means you will not need to take the CNA training or exam again, as long as you can submit the necessary proof and records.
And there you have it, guys!
All you need to know about becoming a Certified Nurse Assistant!
Becoming a CNA is a promising and fulfilling career, and it’s a good stepping stone if you want to advance in your career as a nurse.
So what are you waiting for?
Start your application process now!