Certified Nurse Assistant: How To Become A Certified Nurse Assistant, Job Outlook & Resources

Certified Nurse Assistants provide a vital service to the community. We have an aging population, and more chronic diseases. There is also an increase in rehabilitation programs. Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA’s) are at peak demand right now.

How To Become A Certified Nurse Assistant

 You must be at least 16-18 years old to enroll in Nurse Assist Training. You will need to gain your High School Diploma or GED, complete your Nurse Assistant Training and pass a Certified Training State Examination. CNA training programs last from 4 to 16 weeks, depending on the institution.

 Gain Your High School Diploma or GED

 You can complete a high school diploma at your local high school or online. Alternatively, you may take and pass the GED test at an official GED Testing Center. You must be at least 16 years old to take the GED test.

Register for Nurse Assistant Training

Community colleges, trade schools and medical facilities offer Nurse Assistant Training. The American Red Cross and various online training centers also offer the course. Ensure that your course is approved by your state nursing board before enrolling.

Complete Your Nurse Assistant Training Curriculum

Your course will cover medical terminology, structure and function of the human body, and patient care. As a student, you will learn to properly dress, bathe and feed a patient. You will learn how to take vital signs and blood pressure.

Pass Testing and Certification at a Testing Center

 After you finish your training, you will be required to undertake your state examination for certification. You will generally need to take your state exam within 3-4 months. This will consist of a multiple choice test and also a practical test on a patient or someone acting as a patient.
Get Your Criminal Checks Undertaken

 It may be necessary to undergo a criminal background and drug check upon studying for your nurse’s assistant’s course and for some nurse’s assistants positions. Your fingerprints may also be taken. Be prepared.


You will need to pay for the cost of your training and also a fee for your CNA examination.

The average cost of a CNA training course is $1,100.

For certification, both a written and a clinical test must be undertaken. The current average price is $27 for the written test and $74 for the clinical test. Prices are subject to change. Be sure to check with your state for exact prices and any extra fees that may be payable.
Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA’s) work under the supervision of nurses to deliver high quality care to patients. Society has an aging population and an increase in rehabilitation programs and chronic diseases. CNA’s provide a vital service to the community.

Job Description / Responsibilities

  • Listen to the patient’s needs and requests. You will be the first point of contact for the patient. The patient needs to be able to communicate their needs and requests to you and know that they are being heard.
  • Communicate with the patient in a compassionate and empathetic manner. The patient may see only nursing staff – and no family – for weeks or even months at a time. Communication skills are vital.
  • Provide emotional support. Listen. Ensure that the patient’s feelings are taken into consideration.
  • Monitor any changes in mood or behavior. Mood swings may be a sign that diet or medication needs altering. They may also have personal issues.
  • Feed patients. Many patients are unable to feed themselves and this will be one of your main jobs.
  • Ensure patient’s nutritional needs are met. Even if you are feeding them, ensure that portion sizes are not too small or large and that they are eating a balanced diet.
  • Bathe patients. Many patients are unable to bathe themselves. Bathing is an important part of your duties as a Certified Nurse Assistant.
  • Dress patients. Many patients will need help with dressing due to their injury or illness.
  • Groom patients where needed. Assist with brushing hair and trimming nails. You will need to ensure that hairbrushes etc are clean.
  • Supply and empty bedpans. Where patients are needing to use bedpans the Certified Nurse Assistant will supply the new bedpan and empty the used bedpan.
  • Take vital signs of patients such as temperature and blood pressure. For some patients, this may be several times each day.
  • Record patient health status including vital signs. Patient vital signs need to be recorded so that all medical staff have access to them and so that changes can be monitored.
  • Monitor the patient’s physical condition for changes. As a Certified Nurse Assistant, it may be that you are the person who is most aware of the patient’s physical condition. Report any changes.
  • Answer any calls for help. You will be the initial contact when a patient needs assistance.
  • Set up medical equipment for patient examinations. Ensure that the room is set up appropriately, the patient’s privacy is respected, and all equipment is sterile and ready to use.

Job Outlook

Job growth for Certified Nurse Assistants is currently 17%. In the next decade it is forecast that there will be 267,800 new CNA positions. This is much faster than average occupational growth.

The growth is coming from an aging population. More rehabilitation programs are also being set up. There are more chronic diseases in the world today, which also means more jobs for CNAs.

Long term care facilities such as nursing homes will have the highest demand for CNA’s. The elderly will have more health concerns that younger people. Illnesses that may affect the elderly include dementia, heart disease and diabetes.

There are great job prospects for Certified Nurse Assistants. Many staff leave the occupation and so there are always new positions opening up. Other Certified Nurse Assistants stay in the field for 40 years or more. There can be a huge sense of purpose and personal fulfillment in the role.

CNA’s may undertake further study to progress in their career. A college degree can lead to a role as a registered nurse or licensed practice nurse. Staff may become degree qualified. Prospects will then include becoming a Nursing Home Administrator or Geriatric Care Manager.

Work Environment

Certified Nurse Assistants may find employment in Nursing Care facilities or hospitals. Retirement communities, home-care services, and government organizations also recruit CNAs. 41% of CNA’s work in Nursing Care facilities.

CNAs are usually employed full time. Many patients need 24-hour care 7 days per week. Thus Certified Nurse Assistants may need to work a variety of shifts. These include day shifts, weekends and holidays.

Nursing assistants do physical work. This includes lifting and moving patients. Despite the training provided, there is a higher than average chance of illness or injury.

The work environment can become stressful. This is because of a high volume of staff turnover and the possibility of shift work. There is also below average pay.

Certified Nurse Assistants need to be able to relate well to people. CNA’s will communicate with patients, other nurse assistants and registered nurses. You will also liaise with office staff, doctors and other medical staff.

CNAs must meet standards of care when dealing with patients. If these are not met the CNA may receive any range of treatment from the patient. This could range from verbal abuse through to a lawsuit.


There are many helpful online resources for Certified Nurse Assistants.

Interview Tips: Nurse Together gives sample questions and answers for interviews. Tips for winning that job interview are also outlined!


Online Learning: The Learning Nurse Resources Network covers professional development, continuing education assessment, e-learning and an online library.


Breaks: This website discusses your rights regarding breaks for meals and payment for breaks. Break laws are discussed state by state.

Welcome to Nursing Assistants Online

The National Nursing Database: This database provides statistics of nursing licensing. Data can also be viewed by State. Data is updated frequently.


State Boards of Nursing: The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) contains links to all State Boards of Nursing in the United States, their addresses, and contact numbers. Examination information, test plans, testing locations, boards and relocation, news and events and much much more is contained on this site.


American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): This association is the largest full-service national professional membership organization for nursing staff of all specialties. AANP represents more than 222,000 nursing staff.


National Network of Career Nursing Assistants:  This organization promotes recognition, education, research and peer support for Certified Nurse Assistants.

National Network of Career Nursing Assistants

Depression: Nursing Assistant Resources on the Web speaks about the causes and symptoms of depression. The article relates to clinical depression in patients in particular.

Welcome to Nursing Assistants Online

Food and Nutrition: This website provides help and information on the safety and nutritional value of food. It covers healthy eating, food additives, nutritional labeling and chemicals and contaminants in food.


Safe Medication Practices: This site covers safe medication practices such as medications lists, common errors for medication supply. The names of drugs are listed that are commonly confused by nursing staff.


Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy living, diseases and conditions, emergency preparedness and much more are covered here.



As a Certified Nurse Assistant, you will need various technical and personal skills to succeed. You must have sound practical skills such as knowledge of taking and recording blood pressure, and the ability to bathe and feed patients. Your communications skills are also very important.

  • Knowledge of basic medical procedures: These include taking blood, taking blood pressure and taking patient’s temperature.
  • Bathing and feeding patients: Many patients are unable to bathe and feed themselves. It is the Certified Nurse Assistant’s job to bathe and feed them.
  • Grooming patients: Some patients will need help with personal grooming. For example they may need their hair cut, shaving, and toenails trimmed.
  • Ability to take direction: As a Certified Nurse Assistant you will be required to take direction from senior staff. This includes Nurses, Registered Nurses, Doctors and Administrators.
  • Write up patient reports: Patient reports must be recorded accurately and in a timely manner.
  • Knowledge of infectious diseases: CNA’s must have a knowledge of infectious diseases. You will need to know the methods used to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Organization skills: It is important to be organized in such a busy work environment. Meals, bathing, and medication must all be undertaken at set times in the day. The daily timetable must be adhered to.
  • Communication: Clear communication with patients and staff at all levels is vital. It is important to listen to both patients and staff. CNA’s need to communicate well to ensure that patient’s needs are met.
  • Relationship skills: Certified Nurse Assistants must build strong and trusting relationships with patients and staff. It is vital to be able to work in a team environment.
  • A Caring and Empathetic Manner: CNA’s are often the first point of contact for a patient. You need to care for and empathize with the patient. Certified Nurse Assistants need to listen to the patient’s needs carefully.
  • Ability to abide by protocols: Certified Nurse Assistants must abide by strict medical and organizational protocols. This is particularly important in the case of administering drugs.

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