A certified nursing aide or CNA degree is one of the quickest and easiest ways to enter the healthcare profession and can provide a stepping stone to a better-paying and more responsible healthcare job. CNAs provide support for other healthcare professionals in clinical settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, and nursing homes and perform many of the tasks that give professionals time to focus on higher-level issues and problems.
What Does a CNA Do?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs have the following job responsibilities:
• Give baths to patients and ensure they are clean
• Assist patients in dressing and using the toilet
• Move patients between wheelchairs and beds or chairs and reposition them when necessary
• Record patients’ vital signs such as temperature or blood pressure and report information to nurses and doctors
• Serve meals and help patients eat when necessary
In other words, CNAs perform the everyday tasks that make patients comfortable and allow nurses and doctors to do their jobs more efficiently.
How Much Do CNAs Make and What Is Their Job Outlook?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2010 CNAs had a median salary of $24,010. Many people begin as CNAs and work their way up to a higher-pay job through more education and experience.
The job growth rate for CNAs is relatively high, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimates that the growth rate for CNA jobs between 2010 and 2020 will be as high as 20 percent, about twice the growth rate for most jobs. This high growth rate may be due to the growing need for healthcare workers as the population ages or to healthcare facilities cutting costs by reducing the number of higher-paid nursing positions.
The BLS estimates that the largest percentage of job growth will occur in hospitals and nursing homes that deal with elderly patients, while the smallest job growth will occur in doctors’ offices.
How Do I Become A CNA?
While each state has its own particular requirements for certification of nursing aides, many of these requirements are similar. A typical CNA certification path includes post-secondary classes leading to a state-mandated CNA examination. Depending on your state, you may be able to take these classes in conjunction with a vocational program in high school, thereby receiving your certification as soon as you graduate. Other students take classes in high school such as anatomy, biology, and chemistry, as well as healthcare-specific classes which prepare them for a post-secondary vocational program through a technical school or junior college.
Once a potential CNA has finished his or her training, the state-mandated exam must be addressed. These examinations are usually relatively straightforward and ensure that a CNA has a basic knowledge of healthcare procedures as well as awareness of legal and other issues surrounding the treatment of patients.
Once a student has passed the certification examination, many states require continuing education or re-examination every few years to ensure that the CNA stays abreast of the latest developments in healthcare.
Most states also require a criminal background check for CNA candidates to ensure that patients are kept safe and that only the best people work in these responsible positions.
A healthcare career can be a stepping-stone process. For those who are considering a late entry into the healthcare field, a CNA position can be a manageable way to enter the healthcare field without a tremendous investment of time and money into education and training. A CNA study course can be the first step into a challenging and lucrative healthcare career that can lead to higher levels of education and better jobs, or it can provide needed income in an exciting work environment for those who want to test the healthcare career field and see if it is right for them.