How to Become a CNA in Iowa (A Complete 2023 Guide)

How to Become a CNA in Iowa

Calling all aspiring CNAs in Iowa…

Are you not sure where to begin? How to begin?

Are you looking for the complete requirements and steps in Iowa?

You’ve come to the right place. 

Here, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know on how to become a CNA in Iowa — from start to finish. We’ll walk you through the steps and requirements, as well as answer some FAQs. 

We won’t skip anything. 

So are you ready?

Let’s begin!

How to Become a CNA in Iowa – The 5 Steps

The process of becoming a CNA in Iowa can be broken down into 5 steps. These are:

  1. Find a training program
  2. Meet the program prerequisites
  3. Complete your training
  4. Pass the CNA Competency Exam
  5. Get registered as a CNA

Let’s go over the details. 

Step #1: Find a Training Program That Fits You

The great news is that there are many CNA training programs available all over Iowa. You might just find one near you. 

For the most part, these programs are offered in community colleges. If not that, you can choose to complete your training at healthcare facilities, training centers, etc. 

Click here to find available training programs in Iowa.  

Of course, it’s not just the location that you should look into. 

The perfect training program for YOU should fit your schedule, budget, and learning style. So don’t forget to look into these. 

IMPORTANT! Here’s a non-negotiable — the training program you select should be approved in Iowa. If not, you will first have to take a challenge exam before the Competency Exam. Plus, the facility will have a say on whether you are eligible for the exam or not. 

Step #2: Meet the Program Prerequisites

CNA training programs in Iowa require several prerequisites before admission. 

Now, the prerequisites will depend on your program provider. But to give you an idea, you should expect to meet the following: 

  • Be at least 16 years old. 
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Have documentation of required vaccinations.
  • Have documentation of two-step TB testing.
  • Complete the provider’s application form.
  • Have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Pass a background check for adult/dependent and child abuse. 

Step #3: Complete Your Training

In Iowa, you need to complete 75 hours of CNA training. This should include several hours for classroom instruction and at least 30 hours for hands-on clinical training. 

As for the curriculum, it will cover a wide range of topics relating to the knowledge and abilities of a certified nursing assistant. 

Some topics you’ll learn about include: 

  • Assisting with mobility and positioning
  • Basic nursing skills
  • Communicating with clients
  • Client rights
  • Infection prevention and control
  • Medical terminology
  • Mental health
  • Nutrition
  • Personal and client safety
  • Responding to health emergencies
  • Taking and recording vital signs

Step #4: Pass the CNA Competency Exam

The State of Iowa allows community colleges to administer the CNA Competency Exam. So make sure to check which community colleges offer this exam and the steps on how to apply for it.

What can you expect from the CNA Competency Exam?

There are two portions:

  • Written exam
  • Skills exam

The written exam will be done on a computer. You need a score of at least 70% to pass. 

As for the skills exam, you’ll be asked to demonstrate certain CNA skills that you learned during training. The skills you have to do will be selected at random. 

Also, during your skills exam, don’t forget to bring a photo ID, a watch with a second hand, and appropriate clothing (i.e scrubs, closed-toed shoes, etc.)

You have to pass both portions of the exam to go through. 

What happens if you fail?

You are given 3 attempts to pass both portions of the exam. If you fail all 3 times, you will have to go back to training. 

What if you pass the written but fail the skills?

You only need to retake the skills exam and vice versa. 

Step #5: Get Registered as a CNA with the Direct Care Worker Registry

Once you pass the CNA Competency Exam, the testing provider will inform the Direct Care Worker Registry about your completion. This is when your name is added to the registry and you are finally a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in Iowa. 

You can start looking for employment at a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, etc. 

NOTE: The DCW Registry no longer sends out CNA certificate cards. If you want one, you have to sign in at the Registry’s website and print your card from there. 

Frequently Asked Questions About CNAs in Iowa

Now that you know how to become a CNA in Iowa, let’s go over a few frequently asked questions. 

How much does CNA training cost in Iowa? 

Most community colleges charge around $600 – inclusive of tuition, fees, textbooks, and the Competency Exam (if available). You’ll also have to pay for the required vaccines, background checks, and TB tests. Overall, you’re looking at $750 to $1,000 for CNA training in Iowa. 

Can I get free CNA training in Iowa? 

Yes, there is a way for you to get FREE CNA training in Iowa. You’ll have to look for a long-term care facility that will agree to pay for your education and training in exchange for your services. 

Can you work in long-term facility care while undergoing CNA training in Iowa?

Students are free to accept employment at a long-term care facility while simultaneously finishing their training. However, they will have to complete a 20-hour structured training program before they interact directly with residents – unless their training program specifically requires them to do so. 

This 20 hours of training is in addition to the 75-hour state-required CNA training program. 

How do I keep my CNA certification active in Iowa?

In Iowa, CNA certification is valid for 24 months (2 years). 

To renew, you need to show proof that you worked at a long-term care facility for at least one 8-hour continuous shift throughout the 24-month certification period.

The hours must be used to provide nursing assistance. Employers can use the DCW Registry website to verify an individual’s employment details.


And that was how to become a CNA in Iowa. 

Now that you know what to do, it’s time to get started!

So go ahead and look for the perfect CNA training program for YOU. 

Good luck!

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