The Complete Guide to Getting CNA Certification

To work in the nursing field, CNA certification could be the right fit forward. Certification is the access to a career in which you are indispensable to registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) or even a doctor. Here as CNA one need to take care for those who cannot care for themselves.

To become a certified nursing assistant is the aspiration of many individuals who want to make a stable career in the healthcare sector. Such individuals opt for CNA certification courses which help them to get certified and listed in their state’s registry.

This is important as the listing is necessary to find jobs in healthcare facilities across the state and provide daily care for the patients.

The courses are designed as per the norms of the particular state and the duration of the course also differs from one state to another. The main objective of the course is to train the students to take care of the patients who need long term care as they are physically or mentally ill.

The certification is necessary to make the student a thorough professional who can empathize with the patient and take care of them with ample patience. If you are interested in pursuing the course for CNA, you will have to firstly understand that a certified nursing assistant is a service-oriented job.

CNA Certification Courses Overview

CNA certification courses have a lot of important aspects which have to be known by an aspirant who want to become a CNA. You have to first of all find out the schools and colleges in your area which are accredited.

You have to know the

  • Eligibility criteria
  • Application process
  • Initial exams
  • Training classes
  • Clinical sessions
  • Final examinations
  • And the job opportunities in your state

The eligibility criteria also differ from one state to the other but the basic norms include the age limit of eighteen, you should have completed at least high school diploma, you should not have any physical or mental illness and some states have the criteria that the student must not be pregnant at the time of admission.

You have to get the application form from the respective school or college and fill the relevant details.

You may have to submit two copies of any photo identity proof with your signature and also details of any crime committed in the past for which you have been convicted.

A thorough background check is conducted by all the schools and colleges irrespective of the state of aspirants who want to pursue CNA courses. If you had committed felony or any crime, then your application will be rejected.

These are some of the major CNA certification requirements which have to be fulfilled in order to be enrolled in the course. Clearing the initial exams is also a must for you to be enrolled in the course. The exam would basically test your verbal and written communication skills.

If you fail to pass, you may be provided with training in the skills lab and you can re-appear for the exam.

CNA Certification Eligibility Requirements 

The CNA certification program is very popular among individuals who want to pursue a career in the nursing and healthcare sector. The most important aspect of nursing certification includes its eligibility criteria to enroll for the certification program. CNA certification requirements are the most important things to be aware of before applying for the course.

The CNA course is offered in schools and colleges and it is important to know whether they are accredited properly before choosing the program offered. The requirements for doing the certification differ from one state to another.

The eligibility criteria, application process and other requirements are different in each state and are laid down as per the norms of the state. You will have to fulfill all the requirements to apply for the certification and eventually become a certified nursing assistant.

Though the eligibility criteria differ from one state to another, there are some basic requirements which remain the same. You will have to be eighteen years old and completed at least high school diploma at the time of your application. You have to fill up an application that would be provided at the school or college where you would be applying for. The most important constituent of the CNA certification program requirements is the background check of the applicant.

The applicant should have a clean record and should not have committed or convicted for criminal activities or felony. You shouldn’t have been involved in any illegal activities in the past, this criteria differs from one state to another. The background check is very important part of the application process and the school or college may just reject your application for the program if you are found to have gone against the law at any point of time in the past.

The CNA certification course would be a tough one and it is not easy to keep up to the standards set by the classes and clinical sessions. So, only students who can keep up with the tough space and have the basic communication skills are inducted in to the program.

For this purpose, an entrance examination is conducted wherein the verbal and written skills of the aspirant are tested and only those who have got good communication skills are taken in.

The communication skills is an important part as the certified nursing aide will spend the most number of hours with the patient and he or she has to be good at communicating with the patients.

The nursing aide should also communicate well with the nurses and doctors to be an integral part of a team which provides daily care for the patients. If you are not able to pass the examination, you would not be enrolled for the program. But, there are some schools and colleges which provide training for those aspirants who have failed to clear the examination.

The aspirants who have failed to clear the communication skills test are trained in a language lab where they are groomed to improve their verbal and written skills. They are also allowed to appear the examination after the training.

But, only some educational centers have this facility of training the aspirants who have failed to clear the examination. So, if you are not very good at basic verbal and written communication skills then it would be smart to apply only for those schools which provide training if you fail to clear the examination.

You will be asked to appear for a face-to-face interview along with your duly filled in application form and you will be required to submit a letter of recommendation from officials in the field of healthcare. You will also be asked to submit two copies of any photo identity of yours which are signed by you.

How to Apply for the CNA Certification

You will have to be careful in filling up the application form as any mistake may lead to rejection of your application. Before submitting the application form, it would be prudent to get it checked from a senior or experienced individual.

CNA certification requirements are strict in order to enroll only those individuals who are dedicated for offering services and sincere enough to carry out the responsibilities which are crucial for the recovery of patients.

It is important that you are sure about enrolling for the highly demanding course as job of a certified nursing assistant is very difficult, you should also understand the responsibilities of a CNA before deciding to go for the program.

Requirements to become a certified nursing assistant is a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) and the completion of a 6-12 week training program followed by certification.

CNA certification is essential for a nursing assistant job, because it is mandatory and offers some advantages like job security, a better salary and more hiring opportunities. A nursing assistant can work in hospitals, health care facilities, retirement homes, adult day care facilities or at the patient’s private home.

Let’s recap

  • Student must have completed 18 years of age
  • Student must have completed a high school diploma or GED (equivalent to high school diploma)
  • Student should have completed 40 hours of training session under the instructions of a registered nurse (RN)
  • Student must possess proficiency in English so as to understand and communicate with the patients
  • If demanded by the licensing authority, student must submit the transcript
  • Student must have passed the CNA competency exam before applying for the license
  • Student should submit the medical check proof and background check proof which ensure the good health and clean background of the student

How to Obtain a CNA Certification

To obtain training one needs to enroll name for the certified nursing assistant training program. The courses are conducted in community colleges, online courses or health care facilities that offer a training program.

The program includes theory as well as practical skills with number of different topics such as

  • Basic Nursing Skills
  • Infection Control
  • Proper Body Mechanics
  • Nutrition
  • Basic anatomy
  • Physiology

After completion of the course, the student has to clear a certification exam to obtain a CNA certificate followed by obtaining license from respective state to practice further.

Wondering what does a CNA Certificate look like? see the example below

cna certificate example
CNA Certificate Example

CNA Certification Exam

A CNA test for certification includes theory as well as practical skills test, so the students must work hard in both the regards to clear the test. In many states it is mandatory to clear the skill test to appear for theoretical test.

The tests are conducted by the state health department or even by American Red Cross Society and the students have to give the test as per the norms of their respective states.

The written exam includes portion covered in lectures, whereas the skill test will cover that the students learned during clinical class.

Tests varies from state to state, but a student must pass both the tests for CNA certification. Practice test papers are available and and even online practice tests are also available.

Exams for CNA License

To become a certified nursing assistant, one is desired to take CNA classes, mostly from an accredited school or college or a stable institution like a nursing home or a recognized hospital that offers a CNA training program for students. Taking classes through an accredited institution renders recognition as a certified nursing assistant and after certification, helps in getting the CNA license too.

There are certain rules and regulations regarding the CNA classes and CNA license which include the type of classes taken (offline / online), classroom sessions attended, practical or clinical sessions attended, hands-on training completed, results for the exam of the state (passed / failed), etc.

If one wants to apply for the CNA license, one should accomplish the training program for the same and then give the CNA certification exam which is also known as National Nurse Aide Assessment Program exam (NNAAP).

cna certification exam

On passing the exam, one becomes eligible to get the certification and apply for the license further. This exam is the same for the certification as well as the license. It is designed so as to evaluate the knowledge, skills and abilities of the student that are required to be possessed for continuing the practice as a nursing assistant.

The evaluation takes place in 2 forms out of which one deals with the written or technical knowledge test and the other one deals with the practical or clinical skills of the students. Those students, who clear both the tests, are only eligible for the position of the entry-level nursing assistant.

They can then apply for the certificate and license too. The CNA license exam is approved by the state and the federal government and thus, has recognition.

CNA Certificate Examination Pattern

  • The exam has 2 tests – technical / theory based upon the course taken in classroom sessions and practical / clinical based upon the clinical skills of students developed during the hands-on training sessions
  • Technical test paper consists of a specified number of multiple choice questions (MCQs in English only) and this number may vary from state to state
  • Some students find it difficult to solve the paper in English, so some of the states also provide an alternative of oral exam in other languages for the convenience of those students
  • Practical test consists of any 5 random clinical tasks to be performed successfully by the students, within the given specified time
  • The CNA instructor will be present there during both the tests to monitor each and every task of the students

The Technical / Theory Part which needs to be revised

  • All the course material that has been taught in the classroom sessions
  • All the related material available, that may help during the technical and clinical test

The Clinical Tasks to be practiced

  • Washing of hands, cleanliness practices
  • Assisting ambulate using transfer belt
  • Assisting the use of bedpan
  • Cleaning of dentures
  • Counting and recording of pulse rate, respiratory rate
  • Feeding and dressing
  • Measuring and recording blood pressure, urinary output
  • Bed making (occupied / unoccupied)
  • Re-positioning the patient
  • Providing mouth care
  • Providing catheter care for female patients
  • Transferring patient from the bed to wheel chair and vice versa
  • Communicating with patients

Some of the websites and medical or health science institutions also provide with the practice tests for CNA exam. Websites or institutions offering online classes also offer to give free online practice tests. Students can try getting such practice tests so as to be comfortable during the final CNA exam.

Renewal, Verification and Transfer of License

After you acquire the certificate, you should be careful about renewal as the it has a fixed time period of validity. A certain renewal fee is also charged to it renew.

Getting your certificate verified is also an important process and you should make sure you get a hard copy of your the same as it has the original seal of the licensing authority.

If you would be looking for job opportunities in other states in the future, you will have to apply for transfer of the license.

It is better to know all the terms and conditions related to nurse aide certification before deciding to pursue a career in the health care sector and this would help you to achieve a successful career as a certified nursing assistant.

You can find detailed state-wise information on CNA license in here and it would be better to know the terms and conditions related to the license requirements in each state before deciding to pursue a career in the health care sector as a certified nursing assistant.

CNA Certification by State

The certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or medical caretaker helpers have a critical position in the medicinal services industry. These experts work under the immediate supervision of a certificationed nurture (LN), or a certificationed pragmatic medical caretaker (LPN) to give care to the patients.

They are responsible for ambulating, taking vital signs, and providing personal care to patients like feeding, bathing, toileting, walking, providing emotional support and so on. They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, long term care facilities, or even provide services to home bound patients.

The nurse aides are the ones who spend most of the time with the patients and should know how to take care of them. They should know when to call for help and what first aide should be given to patients till the time a nurse or a doctor arrives.

They should also know the legal aspects. This will enable them to know how they can avoid getting into trouble, and being sued by residents or patients.

A good training program enables them not just to take care of the patients with various health problems, they also come to know various procedures like infection control, handling equipment’s, how to use the Heimlich maneuver or the transfer gait belt and so on. They also learn to prepare the diet charts for the patients as they are responsible to feed them.

The nurse aides serve as an important link between the patients and the doctors and nurses. They have to be very alert regarding the health of the patients.

As they are responsible for taking the vital signs of the patients, they should recognize what situation should be called an emergency and a doctor should be called for.

Another skill that the nurse aides should have is excellent communication skills. This is because they have to spend a lot of time dealing with the patients and interacting with their families.

Not all the patients are easy to deal with. The CNA certification programs trains them how to interact with them and what they should do with patients who refuse treatment.

The duration of a CNA certification course may vary from one state to another; it may last from a couple of weeks to about six months. The federal law has made it mandatory for various organizations to impart training to CNAs for a minimum 75 hours.

However, this duration varies from one state to another; most of the states feel that 75 hours is very less for the training and have more numbers of hours of training. The training is divided into classroom instructions and skills rotation, in which the practical sessions let the students practice what they have learnt in class.

Most of the colleges and schools have some criteria for candidates to get accepted into a training program. These students should know how to read, write and speak in English and should know how to solve basic maths.

They should also not have been involved in any criminal record for being accused of felony or theft, consuming drugs or taking treatment for them. This is because a clean background is a criterion for getting certification and those who do not have one, are disqualified from getting a CNA certification.

After the completion of the training program as a nurse aide, the candidates have to pass a competency test. This consists of two parts, the written test and the skills test. The written test has several multiple choice questions.

The number of questions asked in this test may be different. In order to pass this test, the candidates have to score at least 70 to 80 percent. For the skills test, they are asked to know the various procedures that they have learnt in the practical sessions of the training.

Thus, those who undergo the training must have a very thorough knowledge of what they were taught in the classroom.

Otherwise, they will not pass the certification exam. In most of the states, the candidates get about three chances to pass this test, otherwise they have to retake the training.

In some states, they have to retake the training along with an additional course.

Once the candidates get their certification, it remains valid for about 2 years in most of the states.

The CNAs should renew their certification before it lapses. In this case, most of the states require the candidates to retake the certification test and also pay the fee for it.

Some states do not have any fee for renewing the certification, but some states charge a nominal fee for it. The renewal process in most of the states is quite easy.

If CNAs want to transfer their certification from one state to another, it is easy for them to do so if their certification is active in their state, or else, they have to appear for the competency test and renew their certification.

Importance of CNA Certification

Many aspirants who would like to start a career as a certified nursing assistant, do not understand the importance of CNA certification training.

A certification gives you the authority to work anywhere in the state in any healthcare facility and grow as much as you want professionally. The training period differs from one state to another and can extend from few hours to few months as per the requirement of the state where you are applying for the training program.

There are certain CNA certification schools which provide training in a very professional way but the first thing you should do is to make a list of which educational centers are accredited and then apply for the same.

CNA training includes mostly three main parts: theoretical classes, skills lab and clinical session. Theoretical training is comparatively less as there is a high need for practical training through clinical sessions.

You are trained on how to handle situations and responsibilities which would be required while you are on duty as a certified nursing assistant.

For this kind of professional and practical training, it is important to choose the right school or college which offers a holistic training program that would bring out a professional in you.

There are also certain training programs offered by training schools and colleges which provide job assistance once you finish the certification successfully.

It would be profitable for you if you can get assistance in securing a high-paying job and you can try your luck at the clinics where you do your clinical training. You may end up with a job there only as you might become a known face by the time you finish your training there.

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