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Becoming a CNA

Requirements vary depending on state For specifics, visit your State Board of Nursing’s official website  That being said, you can expect to follow roughly the same steps no matter where you are.


Get started with this quick step-by-step guide on how to become an CNA


1. Obtain educational requirements

The minimum educational prerequisite is either a high school diploma or a GED. Even at this early stage, you can start building the foundations for your career. Your chemistry, biology, chemistry, health science and mathematics classes will serve as good preparatory courses. Volunteer work in healthcare facilities will look good in your application and lets you get hands-on experience early. Since CNAs are expected to lift and transfer patients and equipment, consider investing in strength training as well. 


2. Enroll in a CNA Program 

Afterwards, you will need to complete your CNA training program. These can be found in healthcare facilities, trade schools, community colleges and even some high schools. To find the right program, you need to do extensive research on the schools in your area. Make sure said program is state-approved or you will not qualify for the next step.


You also have to consider the kind of schedule you want to take. Nursing programs can take one to four months, depending on the program you choose. If you have the time to commit and you want to start early, you can take on a full-time, four week course. For individuals balancing studies with work and family, there are programs that offer flexible schedules over a longer period of time. Online classes are especially good for this, since they are self-paced, flexible and relatively cost efficient.


Finally, you want to enrol in a program with a proven track record for success. One way to ensure this is by inquiring on a school’s passing rates for the certification exam. You can also ask nurses in the area regarding the reputation of CNAs produced by the program. 


3. Fulfil Clinical Requirements


While you study, you have to complete on-site training requirements, otherwise known as “clinical studies” or “clinical work.”  Even online classes supplement their curriculum with short on-the-job training. Good schools will let students work under medical professionals like RN in order to get hands-on experience with CNA tasks. . This includes checking vitals, dressing patients and changing beddings, just to name a few. 


4. Pass the Licensing Test


When you finish your training program, you will become eligible to take the CNA licensing exam. This will test you on all the skills and knowledge you have accrued, over the course of your program. These exams are typically split into written and clinical portions. The former is usually a multiple choice affair. You will be expected to answer 90 questions in 60 minutes, though specifics may vary according to state.


During the clinical portion, you will be tested on your ability to perform a CNA’s daily care responsibilities. This segment lasts around 30-40 minutes over five skills, though this can depend on the specific tasks being performed. These five skills come from a possible 22-23, which can be found here. Here are a few examples of what you can expect: 

  • Change bed linen while the resident remains in bed

  • Change resident’s position to a supported side-lying position

  • Dress a resident who has a weak arm

  • Feed a resident who is sitting in a chair

  • Measure and record a resident’s respirations


Once you pass, you are placed in the state registry. Congratulations! Now you can practice as a nursing assistant in your area.

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