You do not need a high school or college degree to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, but the position does require that you take CNA classes and pass the CNA Certification Exam. CNA training can be completed at specialized programs associated with junior colleges, at medical facilities, in medical training programs, or through the American Red Cross.
Though online CNA certification would be nice, in-person training is generally required, since you must do clinical work in medical facilities as part of the course requirements. For more information on CNA Certification, be sure to check out our article that explains How to Become a CNA.
To obtain your CNA certification, certain basic requirements must be met, including having US citizenship, possessing the ability to read and speak English at least at a fifth grade level, passing a criminal background screening and a basic physical examination, as well as a drug screening if required by the medical facility where the training takes place.
With a CNA certification, nursing assistants obtain work in a wide variety of settings. Here are some careers to keep in mind as you pursue your CNA certification:
Nursing Home CNA – CNA’s who work in nursing homes primarily assist elderly patients with everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and basic mobility. They typically work more closely with patients than Assisted Living CNA’s, whose patients have greater independence. Since they assist patients who are both physically and mentally ill, a high attention to detail and a close monitoring of vitals is an essential requirement for Nursing Home CNA’s.
Assisted Living CNA – Assisted Living CNA’s typically work with fewer patients over longer periods of time, since the patients are typically healthier than those in Nursing Homes.
Home Healthcare CNA – These CNA’s do not work in one facility, and drive between patient’s homes assisting them with household activities and checking in on their physical well-being. Patients can include elderly as well as disabled individuals (either temporarily or permanently).
Hospital CNA – Unlike other types of CNA’s, Hospital CNA’s have a high number of patients and work in a larger medical facility, checking in on many patients during their shifts, and recording data carefully on patient charts. It’s a faster-paced, but more data-heavy position, for those who would prefer to work in a busier setting.
Rehabilitation CNA – Rehabilitation centers assist individuals who are in the process of recovering from major injuries, such as those sustained in car accidents or sports-related incidents. CNA’s at rehab centers help patients who are re-learning basic skill sets, such as walking. The CNA must monitor signs of progress and be extremely sensitive to the emotional needs of their patients.
Hospice CNA – Hospice patients are terminally ill, and Hospice CNA’s are primarily charged with facilitating pain management and keeping their patients comfortable, liaisoning with family members and offering emotional support to patients. This position is best filled by a compassionate individual with a desire to ease others through this difficult transition. Unlike a Hospital or Rehabilitation CNA, Hospice CNA’s by definition will have to deal with death on a daily basis and must possess both practical medical knowledge and advanced emotional maturity.
Doctor’s Office CNA – Rather than working for a patient directly, or for a large medical corporation, Doctor’s office CNA’s are hired by individual practices to assist Registered Nurses in taking patient blood pressure, collecting urine samples, swabbing for saliva specimens, or other essential day-to-day tasks. They communicate information directly to the physicians, and usually have more of a “desk job” and data entry position than other types of CNA’s.
Urgent Care CNA – Emergency medical rooms hire Urgent Care CNA’s to assist with the influx of hospital ER patients, many of whom have serious injuries. Urgent Care CNA’s assist RN’s and ER doctors with high-stress situations, and must possess the ability to perform detailed tasks calmly under pressure, and interface with severely injured and often panicked patients and family members. This position usually involves longer shifts, including nights and weekends, and is not ideal for those CNA’s who wish to have more stable schedules.
Daycare CNA – This type of CNA works in schools, usually underneath a Registered Nurse, to take care of a student body of children on a day-to-day basis. This position requires a good knowledge of childhood diseases and vaccinations, as well as a high degree of patience and sympathy for young people. This is an ideal position for individuals who love to work with kids and are excellent at communicating with parents.