CNA Certification and Training

What is a Certified Nurse Aide?

A certified nurse aide (CNA), also called a nursing assistant, is a direct caregiver which helps patients with activities of daily living. The main tasks you will perform as a nurse aide include taking vital signs, bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, ambulating, comforting, and listening to your client's concerns. As a nurse aide you may choose to work in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, adult day care facilities, long-term care and hospice, as well as home care.

Because there will always be a need for skilled nursing assistants, you can rest assured that your services will be in high demand for years to come. The nurse aide is a key part of the health care team and it represents the link between the client and the registered nurse responsible for that client. Every state requires a Certified Nurse Aide to work under the supervision of a Practical or Registered Nurse. Average starting CNA salaries for new graduates across the U.S. are about $26,000.

How can I become a Certified Nurse Aide?

There are several ways to become a certified nurse aide. One is to enroll and complete a nurse aide course provided mainly by two-year community colleges or specialized schools. Another way to become a nurse aide is to follow a nurse aide training program at a long-term care facility or skilled nursing facility. The first step is to find a CNA school in your area or a community college which offers a CNA training program. You may search our website for CNA classes in a particular state.

Once you have decided which school or health care facility you are interested in attending you need to contact them directly and request more information about their nurse aide course. Information sessions are usually held periodically for students interested in nurse aide training. Attending an information session will give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have and find out more about a specific CNA course. The length and price of the program as well as help with finding a job after graduation are just a few questions you may want to inquire about.

What will I learn in a CNA course?

In a typically nurse aide class you will learn theoretical concepts and practical skills. Classroom instruction will focus on grasping theory while laboratory and clinical practice will give you the hands-on experience. The following are some of the things you will know once you complete a nurse aide training course:

  • How to provide basic care to adults of various ages
  • Ways to ensure patient safety
  • Preventing and controlling infection for both yourself and the client
  • Proper body mechanics and mobility techniques to prevent injury
  • Effective communication
  • How to assist your patients with daily living activities
  • Proper feeding techniques for each client condition
  • Main health issues faced by adults in long-term care facilities
  • Administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic life support
  • Taking vital signs
  • Techniques for moving and ambulating clients
  • Basic hygiene skills
  • Proper client documentation and reporting

What are employer requirements for CNA jobs?

The first and most important requirement for obtaining employment as a certified nurse aide is showing proof of certification in the state where you seek employment. As a nurse aide your name needs to appear on the state Nurse Aide Registry. Employers also request that you are able to read, write, and speak English as well as follow given instructions and facility protocols.

What do I need in order to enroll in a CNA course?

Most facilities offering nurse aide classes do not require you to have a High School Diploma or GED. In order to be admitted into the nurse aide program you must be able to perform simple math calculations, as well as speak, read, and write in English. To test your math and English skills some nurse aide schools will require that you take the TABE examination, which stands for Test of Adult Basic Education. Depending on the facility you may need to pay for the nurse aide training upfront or your training may be free of charge as long as you agree to work at that facility for at least one year. The age requirement to become a nurse aide also depends on the facility. There are many High Schools which offer nurse aide training courses to sixteen year old students, but most nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities require nurse aide students to be at least 18 years of age.

How can I find a free nurse aide course in my area?

If finding a free nurse aide class is your goal then you need to contact as many local health care facilities as you can. Your best options are long-term skilled nursing care facilities and nursing homes. These facilities will often provide free nurse aide training if upon graduation you agree to become an employee at that facility. This is a win-win situation for both the student and the employer since the student will receive free nurse aide training and employment while the employer gains a valuable health care professional who is already familiar with that facility.

Where can I find low-cost CNA programs?

In addition to long-term care facilities there are community colleges and technical schools which offer nurse aide training classes at an affordable cost. Attendance cost depends on the location of the school and state of residence but you can expect to pay from $300 to $600 for a typical nurse aide training class which lasts approximately six weeks.

How much money can I expect to make as a CNA?

A certified nurse aide is usually payed by the hour and the amount you will earn varies in every state. If you work in a city you will receive a higher hourly salary than someone who does not. As an inexperienced nurse aide you can expect to earn a hourly wage of $8.00 to $11.00. The more experience you have the better your hourly pay will become. For example a nurse aide with at least one year of experience can expect to receive between $12.00 to $14.00 per hour. Most nursing homes pay the same hourly rates as hospitals and have very attractive benefits for their certified nurse aide employees. Below are some examples of the average yearly wage for a certified nurse aide employed in a large city in different states:

  • California – $28,000
  • New Jersey – $28,200
  • Florida – $25,000
  • Montana – $23,300
  • New York – $30,500
  • Ohio – $25,600
  • Texas – $26,500

See CNA wage data by state for more information.

State mandated CNA staffing ratios

Do you know there are minimum staffing standards for health care workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities? Each state has the power to establish the minimum staffing ratios for certified nurse aides (CNA), registered nurses (RN), and licensed practical nurses (LPN). While most states have already established RN and LPN to patient ratios, the certified nurse aide to resident ratio has mostly been ignored. The District of Columbia and seven pioneer states - Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina mandate specific maximum numbers for CNA to resident ratios. What does this mean for a certified nurse aide working in a nursing home? If you work as a CNA in one of the states mentioned above then the maximum number of patients assigned to your care on any given shift can not exceed the one specified by the state.

Arkansas 1:6 1:9 1:14
District of Columbia 1:6 1:10 1:15
Delaware 1:7 1:10 1:15
Maine 1:5 1:10 1:15
Michigan 1:8 1:12 1:15
Oklahoma 1:6 1:8 1:15
Oregon 1:7 1:9.5 1:17
South Carolina 1:9 1:13 1:22

What is the Nurse Aide Registry?

Each State has its own Nurse Aide Registry. The main function of the Nurse Aide Registry is to keep track of individuals who are allowed to work under the title of Certified Nurse Aide. In order to be certified, these people have passed the state nurse aide test, including a written and a hands-on examination, and thus became certified for employment in skilled nursing facilities. In addition, the Nurse Aide Registry maintains a list of nurse aides who have had a finding of abuse, neglect or misappropriation of property against them. The registry can be accessed through the Internet or by phone. Employers usually verify the certification status of a nurse aide by accessing the registry in that state. A certified nurse aide can also contact the registry with certification questions. You may visit the Nurse Aide Registries page to locate the one in your state.

Are online courses as good as on-campus classes?

Online certified nurse aide classes are ideal for students who are too busy to attend classes on campus. The theoretical concepts of the CNA class are being thought online while the clinical component and laboratory practice should take place at a health care facility as well as in a school laboratory. You may choose to enroll in an online CNA class but make sure that you do get to practice the required skills and client assessment in a real setting.

All your hands-on experience should take place under the supervision of a registered nurse instructor and involve real patients in a hospital or nursing home setting. This approach ensures that you practice everything you have learned, have the opportunity to ask any questions and get helpful feedback from your instructor. Remember, the nurse aide certification exam requires students to pass both a written and a hands-on practice test in order to become certified. This is why an online nurse aide program must give you the opportunity to practice care giving skills in a real setting under the guidance of a competent instructor.