What Are Certified Nurse Assistants? (CNAs)

What Are Certified Nurse Assistants

Are you interested in becoming a nurse but aren’t quite sure which type of nurse you want to become?

Are you overwhelmed with all the different types of nurses?

Are you wondering what CNAs are and if this is what you should pursue?

Well, we’ve got you covered! 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at probably the EASIEST type of nurse to become: 

Certified Nurse Assistants/Aides! 

We’ll answer the question, “What are CNAs (Certified Nurse Assistants?)”

We’ll also answer related questions, such as:

  • What do CNAs do?
  • Where do CNAs work?
  • What qualities should CNAs have?
  • Are CNAs considered nurses?
  • Are CNAs the same as medical assistants?
  • Do CNAs have good and viable careers?
  • How do I become a CNA?
  • How can CNAs advance their careers?
  • How much do CNAs earn?

These are all relevant questions that will help you decide if becoming a CNA is your dream job or not. 

We have a lot to cover, so let’s dive right in! 

What Are Certified Nurse Assistants? (CNAs)

Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) are important partners in the healthcare team who help nurses provide quality care to patients. 

They work under the supervision of a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Nurse (RN) and are also referred to as nursing assistants, nurse’s aides, or patient care assistants.

They focus on helping patients perform daily tasks of living and monitor their condition. 

They can greatly impact the lives of their patients since they work very closely with them daily and can observe the conditions of their patients best. 

What Do CNAs Do?

We know that CNAs assist nurses and patients daily, but what exactly does that look like? 

Here is a list of common tasks CNAs perform: 

  • Bathing patients
  • Grooming patients by brushing their hair and teeth, shaving them, etc.
  • Helping patients dress
  • Feeding patients 
  • Cleaning rooms and changing bed linens
  • Assisting with toiletry and catheter care 
  • Turning or repositioning patients
  • Helping patients walk with gait belts, walkers, canes, and other devices
  • Assisting with range-of-motion exercises
  • Helping patients move from a bed to a chair or wheelchair and back
  • Assisting with lifting patients from their beds to examination tables, surgical tables, or stretchers
  • Observe changes in the patient’s condition or behavior
  • Answering call buttons and alerting nurses to emergencies
  • Ensuring the patient’s comfort by filling water jugs and positioning items so they are within reach

Depending on the state and facility a CNA is working in, some CNAs may be asked to perform other duties, such as:

  • Measuring and recording food and liquid consumption
  • Accompanying patients to off-site doctor appointments
  • Stocking or issuing medical supplies, such as dressing packs or treatment trays
  • Measuring vital signs, including blood pressure, oxygen level, and temperature
  • Explaining medical procedures and tests to patients and their families
  • Dispensing medication as prescribed
  • Changing dressings and bandages
  • Setting up equipment such as oxygen tents, portable radiograph (X-ray) equipment, or IVs
  • Assisting in minor medical procedures

Where Do CNAs Work?

CNAs can work in hospitals but are most commonly found in nursing homes, adult daycare facilities, rehabilitation centers, and long-term residential facilities. 

They can also work in outpatient clinics, although this is rare. 

In 2018, nursing care facilities employed 38% of all the CNAs in the country. 

What Qualities Should CNAs Have?

CNAs provide essential basic care to patients and should be sensitive to their needs. They should be able to make the patients feel comfortable and calm in their presence. 

They also need to report to the LPNs or RNs above them about how the patient is doing.

Some of the qualities a CNA should possess, therefore, are:

  • dependability
  • compassion
  • empathy
  • composure
  • patience
  • good communication 
  • physical fitness
  • flexibility
  • good time management
  • good teamwork 

Are CNAs Considered Nurses?

CNAs are NOT licensed nurses, although they work very closely with licensed nurses and are an essential part of the nursing profession. 

They assist licensed nurses and work under their supervision.

CNAs need to gain certification in their state but do have a state license. 

Are CNAs the Same as Medical Assistants?

Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) and Medical Assistants (MAs) have some similarities, but must not be confused with each other. They are two different career paths. 

Nurse assistants ‘assist’ nurses with direct patient care, especially in tasks such as bathing, feeding, and dressing the patients. 

Medical assistants ‘assist’ doctors, usually in the doctors’ clinics or in medical offices. 

They can be involved in administrative work, such as scheduling appointments, updating medical records, handling bookkeeping and billing, etc. 

They can also assist in clinical tasks, such as getting vital signs, preparing the patients to see the doctor, assisting doctors during the physical exam of patients, dispensing medications, etc. 

Do CNAs Have Good and Viable Careers?

CNAs are in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that from 2021-2031, there will be a growth of CNA employment by 5%. This means that there will be about 220,200 job openings for CNAs over the decade.

So if you’re wondering if you can find a job as a CNA or not, the chances are that you can readily find employment, especially in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc.

However, since the job is an entry-level position and only requires a certification the salary is not that high. 

Most people think of becoming a CNA as a stepping stone to other healthcare professions. 

Some use it to determine whether they want to pursue a licensed nursing degree or not; others use it to gain experience and improve their credentials as licensed nurses in the future; and others use it to earn and help finance their pursuit of more advanced nursing education. 

It all depends on what your end goal is. 

Thankfully, getting a CNA certification is fast, relatively cheap, and not very taxing. 

How Do I Become a CNA?

The requirements to become a CNA are not as heavy as other healthcare professionals. 

Most states only require a high school diploma or GED score and some only require a minimum age for you to enroll in a CNA training program. 

The training programs can last for about 6-12 weeks, but some accelerated courses allow you to finish in just 4 weeks. The training usually includes classroom instruction and clinical or hands-on training. This training course may be offered at high schools, community colleges, vocational schools, or even hospitals. 

After the training program, you will need to take a certification exam approved by your state. The exam also has two main parts – a knowledge portion (multiple-choice type) and a clinical skills portion (demonstration type).

If you pass the exam, then you will receive a certificate and will be added to your state’s CNA registry. If you don’t pass on the first try, you can opt to retake the exam. 

You will also need to keep your CNA certification active. Check your state’s requirements for renewal. 

To read a more detailed article on how to become a CNA, you can check this out. 

And since the requirements to become a CNA vary by state, you can look for the specific requirements of your state here

How Can CNAs Advance Their Careers?

One way to improve your employment opportunities and increase your salary range is to take further certifications related to being a CNA. 

Some of the certifications you can look into are:

  • CNA II
  • Certified Alzheimer Caregiver
  • Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant
  • Certified Wound Care Associate
  • Medication Aide Certification

You can also advance your career by becoming an LPN or RN. Being a CNA is a great starting-off point for either career because of your experience. It may also increase your chances of being accepted into a nursing program. 

How Much Do CNAs Earn?

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for CNAs is $30,290 and the median hourly wage is $14.56 per hour.

The top-paying states for CNAs are Alaska, New York, and California. 


And just like that, we’ve covered a lot of vital information to help you determine if you want to become a CNA or not! 

We talked about what CNAs are, what they do, how to become one, how much they earn, and so much more.

We’ve also seen that it is a great stepping stone if you want to pursue more advanced nursing practice in the future. 

We hope you found this article helpful! 

If you have any more questions, please leave us a comment. 

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