The History of CNAs

Have you ever wondered what a CNA is and how they make their place in today’s nursing field? This blog post will explore how CNAs came about and what obstacles they overcame along the way.

How CNAs Came About

In 1914, During World War I, the American Red Cross established a program called the Volunteer Nurses’ Aide Service to provide nursing assistance to nurses who were overwhelmed with wounded soldiers and needed aid. This same initiative was resurrected during World War II In 1939, when more than 12,000 nurse aides offered their services in military hospitals.

Later on, In 1987, Congress passed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, which established national standards for certified nursing assistant training, learning, and requirements. Nurse aids did not need formal caregiver training or certification before this legislation was enacted. Congress passed this legislation in order to maintain high care standards and altered the assistant nursing profession dramatically.

After that, In the 1990s, the Board of Nursing began certifying nursing institutions, hospitals, nursing homes and day care centers that provide the CNA Program to candidates. Today, there are more than 1,300,000 CNAs working in the medical field helping patients with daily activities.

The Evolution of Nursing Assistants Today

Fast forward to today and there are now three different types of nursing assistants: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Licensed practical nurse assistant/aide or LVN/LPN, and Nurse Aide/Orderly. CNAs are the most popular type of nursing assistant as they have passed a state competency exam or, in some states, been trained through an apprenticeship program that includes both classroom instruction and hands-on experience with patients under supervision by a registered nurse (RN).

Once completing their training, all nurses can work in any state within their respective scope of practice. The training programs vary depending on the institution, but all nurse assistant courses should prepare students to perform basic nursing tasks under supervision by a registered nurse (RN). Some examples include: taking vital signs like temperature, pulse and blood pressure; feeding patients who cannot feed themselves; changing bed linens for incontinent patients; performing basic hygiene care like bathing, oral care and hair brushing for incontinent patients.

In the beginning, CNAs were part of a two-tiered system where they would work under RNs while being supervised by licensed practical nurses (LPN). However today many hospitals have done away with this system as there are more RNs working in the field. In some institutions, CNAs can be found providing patient care without a nurse present due to increased use of telemetry monitoring and nurses being assigned multiple patients.

CNAs are now responsible for more direct care than ever before as they provide assistance with numerous daily tasks that were once done by doctors or registered nurses including: checking vitals, administering medication, dressing wounds and assisting with meals.