I looked into becoming a certified nursing assistant a few years ago. So I questioned: How long does it take to become a CNA?
The duration it will take to become a CNA depends on the program you choose, but it is known to last about 6 to 8 weeks. Lets learn more about the education required and the career path.
Prerequisites of a CNA program
Some certified nursing assistant programs may not require a high school diploma or GED; your state and educational institution will determine the requirements and you should consult them.
States are very strict, however, in requiring a background check and screening for entering students and certification candidates.
A history for felonies and crimes, and unfavorable drug test results will likely disqualify a candidate from the profession.
Most schools include this requirement upon application to the program. Other schools require this upon completion of the program but prior to application for certification.
States establish their own requirements for individuals aspiring to become CNAs.
A fulltime student can usually complete a CNA program in a total of six or eight weeks.
States impose the required minimum classroom hours and schools may opt to exceed this minimum. For instance, in California, the State requires a minimum of 150 training hours; schools sometimes choose to go beyond that.
CNA training is typically offered by vocational schools, community colleges or hospitals for interested secondary education graduates.It is also offered by the American Red Cross with around 160 hours to complete.
The program usually starts in an intensified 2-week classroom setting. The curriculum includes classroom and laboratory lessons on basic nursing techniques and responsibilities.
The students will be trained to take, record, and monitor vital signs, such as temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
The first 2 weeks will focus on learning these skills and concepts on medical care, medical terminology, anatomy, emergency care, handling infection and necessary precautions, and ethics and laws governing the profession.
The in-class instruction will be reinforced by 100 or so hours of clinical training and hospital rotation.
This is usually done in nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals.
Students will learn patient support and assistance especially on daily living, transporting patients and equipment, personal care and hygiene, and eating and dressing.
This exposure allows students to observe RNs, the professionals with whom they will eventually work closely; and CNAs in an actual work environment. They will also have a first-hand experience and feel of the real work scenario.
There are CNA programs that are designed in such a way that students are paired with other nursing professionals to allow realistic experience for the student; while keeping patients safe because students are coached and guided by professionals with them.
Certification and Licensing
CNAs need to be licensed before they can be accepted in the nursing field. Again, this step requires time and effort.
There will be more requirements to be completed including a written test and a clinical or practical test. The curriculum completed must also be a state-approved program, in the first place.
The certification testing process takes place in two steps:
1. Written test – a multiple choice test of 55 to 70 questions to measure your comprehension of all lessons taken up during the CNA coursework, including those concepts you learned during clinical training.
2. Practical test – an actual demonstration of what skills you learned. The examiner may require you to simulate actual tasks, such as transporting patients, taking vital signs, bathing a patient, among the many tasks that might be required from you.
After you satisfactorily comply with the required education and pass the competency tests, you will be conferred the title of certified nursing assistant, or other state-specific titles. CNAs will undergo criminal background check and continuing education, which will be required for renewal of certification.
State licenses are required by some states. Certified nursing assistants may also apply for additional credentials, including the a certified medication assistant designation which gives them the authority to give medications to patients.
Career growth and advancement
The career as CNA can be a dead end for some because there is little room to advance without additional education and training. Young CNAs sometimes take this route to later advance as nurses via an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Some employers are also willing to partner with nursing institutions where their employed CNAs can pursue higher studies. Tuition reimbursement arrangements are usually offered as incentive to encourage CNAs to take their career advancement seriously.
Skills and personal traits
CNAs work in the forefront of the healthcare industry. To ensure that patients are served with the most qualified front-service providers, CNAs need to be prepared with the necessary skills and personal traits.
They must be compassionate to the sick, the injured, and the elderly. Their routine tasks require that they have the utmost patience in performing feeding, bathing, cleaning, and transporting patients.
They must truly enjoy their ability and position to assist others who are weak. Their communication skills, especially verbal, must be at the level that allows them to effectively connect with patients, relay information to colleagues, and report to supervisors or other professionals in their tour of duty.
CNA job outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, certified nursing assistants earned a median annual wage of $25,620 in 2012. A 20% increase in jobs is seen between 2010 and 2020.
How long it will take to become a CNA largely depends on the program you choose. Most programs span the range from 6 to 8 weeks.
Add to this the period that you will need to obtain the certification and license that the state may require from you.
A 3-month period is a safe estimate for the length of time you need to prepare for a CNA career and comply with pre-employment procedures and screening and get your first job.
I hope this answers how long does it take to become a CNA.