Standard Requirements for Nursing Assistant Certification

The job requirements and daily duties assigned to a certified nursing assistant are among the many reasons as to why this profession is regulated through certification. Throughout the United States, certified nursing assistants are monitored through a stringent certification process designed to challenge an individual professionally while promoting further knowledge and personal/professional growth. Although every state determines its CNA certification process, the following are universal throughout the country.

CNA Certification Education

No matter where you live, if you desire to work as a certified nursing assistant then you must be trained as such. While states require some form of education, the amount of education dramatically varies. Expect to undergo anywhere from 45 to 125-hours of classroom and clinical training. To determine exact CNA certification classes, contact an administrator of your nursing board or review the “Certified Nursing Assistant Candidate Handbook,” which is easily available online and in print.

Unlike other medical careers, you don’t need an advanced-level degree to work as a certified nursing assistant. Rather, you must only complete a certificate-level program. This being noted, obtaining an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in a nursing-related field may garner higher salaries and more advanced-level certifications, such as a licensed practical nurse.

State Sanctioned CNA Certification

The actual certification process begins after graduation. Your state has several options in terms of the certifying organization, it uses to oversee CNAs. For example, in Georgia the certified nursing assistant certification is done through the Georgia Medical Care Foundation, which is a private contractor. Your state may partner with private contractors or with national organizations, such as the National Council of State Boards of Nursing NNAAP certification, whcih is used by states such as Alabama, Wyoming, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, just to name a few.

Regardless of who oversees and awards CNA certifications, all exams follow a standard format: written unit and clinical application unit. The written, or theoretical, unit consists of multiple-choice questions to evaluate your stored knowledge regarding patient care, medical terminology and legal issues. The clinical application unit, or skills test, involves hands-on demonstration of common CNA tasks. In order to earn the title of a certified nursing assistant, you must successfully pass both exam units.

Becoming a certified nursing assistant is strikingly similar throughout the United States. While individual states determine exact educational pathways and the certifying body, the standard processes and requirements are universal. If you’re interested in pursuing this career, contact your board of nursing or school career counselor for state-specific information.

Can I Work as a Home Health Aide as a Certified Nursing Assistant?

One of the most exciting possibilities of becoming a certified nursing assistant is its career flexibility options. While many aspiring CNAs believe they’re only work options include various medical clinics, they couldn’t be more incorrect. After undergoing training and obtaining state CNA certification, CNAs are able to work in a wide variety of roles and positions throughout the healthcare industry. If you’re interested in working in a more intimate environment with patients, then a career as a home care aide may be your ideal choice.

What is a Home Health Aide?

Home health aides are those who work in patient homes to provide a clean and safe environment so those who are disabled due to injury, illness or age may maintain an independent life. If you have a desire to truly make a difference in the personal lives of patients then a career as a home health aide will satisfy, and then some.

An aide can be a great start to your medical career. The next step is to seek CNA certification to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. These courses can be taken locally at a community college or university, or even through courses online. The flexibility of the classes is often intended to fit the irregular schedules of health aides and other nursing positions. If you eventually plan to obtain a CNA certification then you should consider the following duties of a home health aide as a good first step in your nursing career.

Duties of a Home Health Aide

Although specific duties of a home health aide are determined by their employing state, the most common duties of this professional include:

(I) Daily Personal Task Assisting – Home health aides work directly in patients’ homes to assist with personal tasks such as feeding, dressing and bathing.

(II) Monitoring Basic-Level Vitals – While the bulk of a home health aide job involves personal assisting, these are health care professionals. Therefore, a common task is to monitor and record vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. This is where your training as a certified nursing assistant comes in handy. You may also be required to administer medications at scheduled intervals.

(III) Maintain Sanitary Environment – Home health aides must act as a part-time housekeeper. In order to keep patients healthy, their living environment must be kept clean. Therefore, common daily tasks include cleaning surfaces, doing laundry and sterilizing the home to the best of your ability.

(IV) Offer Companionship – Oftentimes, patients who require home health aides are unable to leave their home for social gatherings. The lack of genuine social interaction and companionship may degenerate their health or mental outlook. Home health aides are incredibly special as they fill this void by offering friendship and care.

Job Outlook

Due to the aging population in the United States, and a growing desire to maintain independence during the twilight years, the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a job growth of 48-percent between now and the year 2022. This percentage roughly represents over 400,000 new jobs during this time period. With an average annual salary of over $20,000, home health aides are decently compensated for their caring and important work.

How to Use Employer Resources to Further Your CNA Career

Accomplishing the monumental task of becoming a certified nursing assistant is a feat within itself. With a myriad of coursework and practical training accumulating into the final certification examination, the path to becoming a CNA is difficult, yet rewarding; however, what happens after you get fired? Is it possible to use your employer resources to further your career as a certified nursing assistant?

Learn Under Professionals

Perhaps the most effective resources at your disposal is the vast amount of knowledge you can learn from superiors. A major aspect of working as a certified nursing assistant is performing tasks alongside professional nursing and physician staff. While this offers its own challenges, the potential to expand your knowledge regarding more advanced-level procedures does nothing but enhance your qualifications. If you’re seeking out an advanced-level degree to become a registered nurse or a physician, this work experience is paramount to your overall knowledge goals.

Promotion Opportunity

Although the scope of your practice is limited by law, as a certified nursing assistant you may gain promotions to more challenges patients and responsibilities. For example, if you’re working in a geriatric unit, you may earn additional patient care responsibilities, which enhance your resume and working knowledge. While your potential as a certified nursing assistant is limited in regards to what procedures you may perform, being promoted to head CNA for a department not only garners higher compensation, but dramatically enhances your resume for future career options.

Library of Information

If you’re working in a hospital or some other large health care clinic, you’ll have a vast array of educational materials at your disposal. The most successful CNAs are those who continuously seek out education through their work environment. Take time out of your day to enhance your working knowledge by taking part in voluntary coursework and reading as many educational materials as possible. This showcases your desire to learn as well as an excellent work ethic; both of which are desirable for current and future employers. Another source of information is the internet. Visit to learn more about a career as a CNA.

In-House Continuing Education

Since the scope of work a CNA can perform is limited, the most important way to advance your career through employer resources is to enlarge your wealth of knowledge. Many hospitals and other health care clincs offer in-house continuing education courses. While you must engage in a certain number of CE credit hours per year to maintain certification, go above-and-beyond this minimum. As stated in the previous section, current and future employers view this active approach to learning as a sign of a dedicated and eager employee, which are qualities many look for in management-level positions.

How to Deal With Difficult Patients

Dealing with difficult patients is a fact of life for not only certified nursing assistants, but for any healthcare-related profession. The primary difference between experiences shared by CNAs and physicians or other nursing staff is the close proximity CNAs have with patients. Throughout your daily duties you’re required to spend a significant portion of your day communing with patients before, during and after treatments. Therefore, learning how to deal with difficult patients is an essential skill set for all certified nursing assistants.

Communicate Clearly

Sometimes a patient may become agitated, scared or angry because he’s unaware of what’s going on. While not uncommon to become aggravated with a difficult patient, take a moment and put yourself in his shoes. Perhaps his injuries or treatment causes him to not think clearly. Therefore, it’s essential you establish an open line of clear, concise communication.

Before performing any type of treatment, duty or procedure, make sure to clearly communicate what your purpose is and what you’re going to do. Do not proceed until the patient is fully aware of your presence and duties. Many times, maintaining open and honest communication is enough to calm difficult patients, at least for the time being.

Don’t Take Insults Personally

Many certified nursing assistants experience a patient who throws insults with the goal of getting a reaction out of you. This is especially true when dealing with geriatric patients or those who are mentally unstable. Although unpleasant, you must always remember to never take any patient-given insults personally. Your job as a CNA is to provide the highest-quality care, not to make friends. At times you must ignore a patient to continue with your job; however, if you ever feel unsafe or if the insults are too great, communicate with your supervising charge nurse your concerns.

Of course, you may not have the option of changing patients or receiving outside assistance. If this is the case, keep the following two rules in the back of your mind:

1.) Never Engage With Insults – This may be difficult for some, as it’s only natural to engage with someone who’s being difficult; however, as a certified nursing assistant, you should strive to maintain the utmost level of professionalism, which may mean ignoring and not engaging with someone who’s mean and disruptive. Continue working with a smile, even during heated conversations or insults.

2.) Avoid Casual Conversation – If your patient is unruly or extremely disruptive, avoid casual conversations. It’s not unheard of for patients to seek out “weak” nursing assistants to terrorize. Prevent this situation by only communicating what’s necessary while avoiding personal talk. You may find when you only discuss pertinent information, the patient is unable to continue with his rude and insulting comments.

Know your rights in the workplace and always stand up for yourselves or colleagues you know that are being mistreated.