A Guide To Certified Nursing Assistant Schools
Getting a degree as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can be the first step in a career in nursing. More commonly, its the degree that you need to become a day-to-day care giver as a hospital orderly, patient care technician in an assisted living facility, or an in-home care aide. All caregivers looking to be licensed as CNAs have to complete a specialized course of study at a medical facility, community college, or vocational school. The Red Cross also offers a series of certified nursing assistant training courses that meet the CNA requirement.
Choosing a Nursing Assistant SchoolAccreditationWith the advent of online colleges, there has been a wellspring of new CNA schools with training programs popping up. Many of these are legitimate schools offering accredited courses, but some are not accredited. A non accredited school may prepare you to take the CNA certification test, but federal tuition assistance will not be available.
In addition, many employers favor graduates from accredited schools, even after candidates have completed certification. This could prevent even a certified CNA from finding a job or later career advancement. CNA training programs that are state approved can be found by contacting the state CNA registry in the health and human services department.
Facility ChoicesThere are several choices to consider when choosing a course of study. Studying in a hands-on medical facility will allow candidates to learn directly from practitioners in a real life environment. Community colleges and vocational schools offer a complete education that is geared toward helping a student pass the federal certification exam.
Online CNA schools offer the most flexible schedule, but often lack the amount of hands-on learning that comes with an in class situation. A high intensity vocational course could be completed in as little as 4 to 6 weeks whereas a community college offering will likely last at least twice as long.
Licensing and CertificationTo be eligible to take the certified nurse assistant state certification exam, a student must have completed at least 75 hours of schooling focused on the 21 core competencies that are outlined in the federal law. Once the exam has been passed, the student is immediately added to the Nurse Aid Registry in the state where the exam was taken. The new graduate is now ready to obtain employment in the field.
Note: CNA certifications are state specific and are not valid across state lines. If a practitioner wants to work in multiple states, certifications must be obtained in each state. Specific requirements for certification may also vary from state to state.
The certified nurse assistant degree will allow an individual to get a foot in the door in the medical field. CNAs often enroll in Associate or Bachelor degree programs and become registered nurses or specialists in just a few years.
Degree OverviewTo apply to a CNA training program, a candidate must have earned a high school diploma or GED. In addition to formal pre-requisites, aspiring CNAs should possess a great deal of compassion, patience, and excellent communication skills.
CNA training includes basic anatomy instruction, infectious disease prevention and treatment, nutrition, communication, medical terminology, geriatric care, rehabilitation, vital signs, personal care, and mental health evaluation. A major focus is placed on patients’ rights and how to respond to emergency situations.
To obtain certification, a candidate must demonstrate knowledge on both a state administered written exam and a hands-on practical exam. Once these two components are completed, the State will issue a certificate, usually valid for two years, to the candidate. States with a two year certifications require continuing education credits and proof of employment to renew their certification. The continuing education credits are often provided by the employer but may also be acquired through professional organizations like the Red Cross.
Are Online Courses Available?While there are several online based courses geared toward getting a candidate ready to take the certification test, there are no online courses that offer a fully immersive experience. Partial CNA training online is available and many community colleges offer hybrid courses that combine online class components with lab sessions. This is because the federal government requires at least 16 hours of instructor led, hands-on learning.
Online hybrid classes offer the greatest amount of flexibility for prospective CNAs without reducing the quality of the education received. The hands-on components are generally held once or twice a week and available in the evening so working students can attend them more easily. Taking these CNA classes online is the most efficient way to transition from a current job to the CNA career path.
Career Paths Available With A CNA CertificationOnce a certified nurse assistant title has been achieved there are several career paths that open up. Many certified nurse assistants continue the educational path and achieve full registered nurse status through obtaining a bachelor degree. The first step is becoming a licensed practical nurse (LPN) through a two year associate’s degree, then followed by two more years to obtain the registered nurse (RN) status. Both of these degrees allow the candidate to take the prescribed state licensing exams.
Both LPNs and RNs have the ability to specialize. An LPN can work in a hospital environment, but can also choose to be a travel nurse who covers the needs of individual clients as they move from place to place. Home care is another possible option, often leading to a career in hospice. An LPN degree is also the choice of many private facilities including spas, laser surgery centers, and private offices.
There are over 70 distinct RN specialties ranging from obstetrics to radiology. Continuing on to earn a RN degree allows an individual to focus on the type of care that gives the biggest emotional reward. Nurses that have an aptitude for organization can move into Nursing Management, those that enjoy children can focus on Pediatrics, and those that want to help surgeons repair serious issues can become surgical nurses.
Career paths for RNs can move into anesthesia based operations or go the route of the certified nurse practitioner who performs many of the same duties as a family physician. Nurses can move up into administration with the addition of a business management degree.