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Certified Nursing Assistant

Education and Training: High school diploma, state certification
Average Salary: $25,140 per year
Job Outlook: Very good

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are nursing aides who perform routine patient care under the supervision of medical staff. They work in hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities. Certified nursing assistants work closely with patients and often develop bonds with them over time.

The duties of a certified nursing assistant include assisting patients with basic needs and personal hygiene, such as bathing, dressing, feeding and escorting them to the bathroom. They help patients walk and take them to examining rooms, as well as spruce up their rooms and make beds. Certified nursing assistants take vital signs like temperature, blood pressure and respiration rate. They check on patients and report changes in patients’ conditions to the medical staff. They set up and store the equipment and supplies used in patient procedures for the medical staff.

Education and Training Requirements

Certified nursing assistants must have a high school diploma, complete at least 75 hours of state-approved training and pass an exam. Depending on the state of residence, there may be additional state-specific requirements. Certified nursing assistants are then listed on the CNA registry in the state they applied.

Getting the Job

Once a certified nursing assistant is listed on a state CNA registry, he or she can apply for any certified nursing assistant job within that state. Job vacancies can be found at hospitals, nursing homes and residential care facilities. Employers and state regulations require a physical examination, disease tests and a criminal background check prior to being hired.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The employment outlook for certified nursing assistants is very good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 18 percent increase in employment for certified nursing assistants between 2008 and 2018, primarily in nursing homes and residential care facilities. However, growth will not be as high as for other healthcare staff because of nursing facilities’ high reliance on government funding. At the same time, turnover for CNAs is high and there are excellent opportunities in replacing certified nursing assistants who have gone on to higher-paying jobs or have gone on to train for other healthcare positions.

There is little opportunity for CNAs to advance, but with additional training, they can become licensed practical nurses or other healthcare professionals.

Working Conditions and Environment

Certified nursing assistants work indoors in hospitals and nursing homes, often with the elderly and infirm. They must follow strict procedures to avoid coming into contact with infections and diseases.

Certified nursing assistants do lots of walking and standing. They lift and move patients following established procedures, but they are still at risk for back injury. Some of their routine tasks may be unpleasant, such as changing soiled clothes, bedpans and sheets, or trying, as some of the patients may be uncooperative.
Certified nursing assistants have a full-time schedule, but they may be scheduled to work weekends, evenings and holidays in order to provide patients with around the clock care.

Salary and Benefits

Certified nursing assistant salaries range from $17,472 to $31,376, with an average of $25,140 per year. Certified nursing assistants who work for the government and universities, or in the states of New York and California, tend to earn more. Less than half of certified nursing assistants get medical benefits.

Where to Go for More Information

Direct Care Workers Association of North Carolina
P.O. Box 37365
Raleigh, NC 27627
(919) 327-9732

Florida Professional Association of Care Givers
1920 Verano Drive #205
Haines City, Florida 33844
(863) 421-5807

Iowa CareGivers Association
1211 Vine Street, Ste. 1120
West Des Moines, IA 50265
(515) 223-2805

National Association of Health Care Assistants
501 E. 15th St.
Joplin, MO 64804-0708
(800) 784-6049

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