What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?

A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, is an entry-level position that’s part of a patient’s healthcare team. A CNA is a vital part of a larger healthcare team that works closely with nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers, under the supervision of licensed nurses, to perform important tasks, such as mobility care, bathing, eating, grooming, recording the vital signs of patients, monitoring patient food intake and more.

Certified nurse assistants are also referred to as Nurse Aides (NA), Personal Care Aides (PCA), State Tested Nurse Aides (STNA), such in the state of Ohio, or Licensed Nurse Aides (LNA), in Arizona and Vermont.

How to Become a CNA

Earn Your High School Diploma or GED

Most states require a high school diploma or GED before entering a CNA training program.

Complete a State-Approved CNA Training Program

The length of CNA training programs varies from state to state, but the average minimum required hour is 75 hours of classroom instructions plus time spent shadowing an experience nurse or nurse caregiver.

Courses will include an introduction to many aspects of healthcare with an emphasis on specific aspects of nursing care, like bathing, dressing, and patient feeding. This training will prepare you, in a short amount of time, to communicate and interact with doctors and nurses, and to administer basic medical treatment as appropriate.

Complete In-Person Clinical Training

After you complete your CNA training course, you must complete an in-person clinical training session at a hospital or healthcare facility before you can take the exam and become certified. Federal regulations mandate that all CNA training programs include at least 16 hours of “hands-on” clinical experience, though most states exceed this minimum.

Pass a State-Approved CNA Certification Exam

Once you complete your in-person clinical training, you are eligible to take a state-approved examination. The exam is designed to verify that you have the essential knowledge and skills to administer appropriate nursing care. The exam will cover nursing-specific topics in several categories, including physical care skills, psychosocial care skills, and the role of a Nurse Aide. Questions about anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and emergency procedures are also included, to test your ability to meet the needs of clients who require the promotion, restoration, and maintenance of health.