CNA License 101: Start to Finish Guide to Getting a License

CNA license is mandatory to apply for the position of a nursing aide in any of the health care organizations such as hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. The training provided towards acquiring a CNA license by state includes classroom training as well as training in clinical labs. The students are also supposed to undergo on the job training as required by a few schools and colleges. This helps you to tackle the responsibilities of a certified nursing assistant in the environment of a hospital or any other institute which are probable places for your work.

To get a certification you will have to clear a clinical exam and a theoretical exam.

The clinical exam will test what you have learned in the practical sessions and you should be confident in displaying every skill you learned during your training. The theoretical exam as the name says will test your knowledge on the various areas related to the subject.

CNA License Requirements

A license is like a passport that helps in making something possible. Similarly, if you are looking for access to the medical industry, you need to get a license. Every profession associated with this industry has to earn a license. This is mandatory even for an entry-level position like a nursing assistant. If the nursing occupation is what you desire, then you must know about the licensing requirement for a nursing assistant.

Now when one does get a professional license? When he/she completes the formality involved in it. Therefore, if you are seeking a nursing assistant license, you need to complete a course and pass the state exam. This is a universal procedure followed throughout the globe.

The nursing licensing course lasts for a month or stretches up to four to six months depending on the specialization you have chosen. Besides completing the course and passing the exam, there are certain licensing requirements for a nursing assistant you must be aware of. Below given details will help you understand what it takes to become a nursing assistant.

  1. Age: Age factor is important in all types of licenses. To achieve the nursing assistant license, you must be 18 years or above. You can expect a slight variation in some states, though. A student who is 16 years of age can also join the CNA training course if the respective nursing board allows. However, employers will not employ a minor in any case. So, even he/she gets the license before 18, they can do the job only after completing 18 years in age.
  2. Eligibility for the exam: You need to prove your eligibility for the exam by passing a comprehensive test. The local nursing board to ensure that you are clear with the nursing concepts administers this test. In addition, the test will also ensure that you have attended the required hours of training and paid attention physically and intellectually.
  3. Degree/Diploma: Initial qualification is necessary in order to qualify for a nursing assistant’s license. As per the state and federal requirements, any student wishing to join the nursing course should compulsory hold a high school diploma or GED. This requirement is exempted in some states. You will have to confirm it with the local nursing board. If your state demands this qualification, you need to present the proof.
  4. Background check: This is a crucial part of the license procedures. Since many offenses and crimes such as petty thefts, drug peddling, driving under liquor influence, street and domestic violence are occurring frequently, the administration is more concerned about the safety of the staff and patients. Therefore, they need you to submit your fingerprints so that a local and national background check is done about your personal character.
  5. Tests: Tests are compulsory and the last step towards achieving the license. Since you are about to join the healthcare industry, you should have technical and practical knowledge. Both these requirements are tested by a written and practical test. The former one will provide you a minimum of 70 multiple-choice questions to show your technical abilities. The latter would ask you to illustrate any of the five clinical skills chosen from wide arrays of curative repertoire. The passing percentage is 70% and 80% depending on the state.
  6. Other essential traits: Nursing assistants must be good in calculation and mathematics. They should also have science as a subject in their school curriculum. As the course involves lab work, prior knowledge in this subject would be useful. Some states will even ask you to pass an aptitude test to check your natural abilities.

Since communication is important in the nursing profession, you need to be proficient in speaking and writing English. You will not have to converse with patients and the medical team. Besides verbal communication, writing skills are important as well since you will have to draft patients’ medical reports and converse with the insurance company through emails. Therefore, during the admission, an English reading comprehension test is conducted to check your communication skills.

Most important in this profession is your character. You should appear clean and clear when looking for any negligence or abusive against you. The nursing profession is for those who believe in the principle of self-denial and put others first before ‘I’.

Hope you are clear with the licensing requirements for a nursing assistant. For more information, we would recommend you to step into a local nursing board office and speak to the authority. What you will get will be genuine and reliable information.

CNA License Classes you Need to Attend to

The level of educational qualification and skills of a certified nursing assistant is manifested by the CNA license. It is nothing but the written proof of the possession of all the skills and talent by the nursing assistants to practice the work.

As the name suggests, nursing assistants serve to assist the registered nurses (RNs) and at times, doctors in hospitals and nursing homes. They are the front liners in medical, health science and allied facilities to perform jobs like

  • Feeding patients
  • Helping them bathe
  • Giving medicines as per the prescriptions
  • Monitoring their health regularly
  • Reporting each and every significant change in patient’s health to doctors
  • Comforting the patients, re-positioning them
  • Communicating between patients and doctors

All the tasks performed by the nursing assistants are quite responsible and challenging, thus require a lot of skill and dedication. These 2 qualities are developed during the CNA classes.

CNA course program prepares students to acquire the essential knowledge related to nursing as well as the skills that are required to work as professionals in nursing homes and hospitals.

Taking CNA classes gives the state certification to the students, but getting the license makes it sure that the certified nursing assistant can now work at various recognized institutions as a professional nursing assistant. That license acts as proof of the abilities of the student for the employers.

CNA license classes are nothing but the CNA classes or CNA training programs. The license can be obtained only after taking the classes and accomplishing the certification process.

CNA License Classes

The classes for getting CNA classes are conducted by several high schools and vocational schools, community colleges, nursing homes and hospitals too.

On completion of the educational requirements for the classes, students can enroll in these classes and start studying the aspects of nursing.

All the essential facets of nursing which are theoretical, technical as well as practical or clinical are covered in the syllable of the CNA course program.

Specific hour sessions are allotted for technical and clinical sessions. This course work tends to prepare the students to pass the state exam and get the certification. After certification, they become eligible for application for licensure.

CNA License Online Classes – Flexible Option to Complete CNA Classes

CNA classes can also be taken online. Online programs provide with all the course material, lectures, interactive session videos for comprehensive learning, online practical sessions, etc.,

After which the students have to perform the clinical work for a specific hour period in an institution, under the supervision and guidance of the senior nurses

(CNA instructors). Online classes are beneficial for those who are not able to attend regular classes or are working somewhere full time. The syllable and exam patterns of these online classes are the same as that of the regular offline classes.

However, the syllable, fee structure and exam patterns may differ from state to state due to many factors.

Steps for Getting CNA License

One should follow the following steps to obtain the CNA license –

  • Fill in the application form provided by the state licensing authority
  • Send the notarized form to the state licensing office
  • Accomplish the verification form required to verify the accreditation of the school from which you have taken CNA classes
  • Submit medical card, fingerprint card and the proofs of background check to the Department of Public safety
  • On getting approval, be prepared for the fees for licensing (can vary from state to state)
  • Obtain your CNA license only after you get the notification about the same

The CNA license has to be renewed after every regular time intervals, as it has an expiry date. It also has to be verified from time to time in order to check for its status, if it is active or inactive.

The license has a restricted validity period before which it is to be reactivated. In case of change of state due to any reason, the CNA license can be transferred with the help of the state licensing authority.

CNA license classes help students to take classes for becoming professional certified nursing assistants and getting the license for the same. This license serves as the proof of that nursing assistant’s talent and skills to practice the work in the medical or health science institution.

CNA License Examination – Time to Face the Truth

The exam for getting the certification and license of the CNA consists of 2 tests – theoretical or technical and practical or clinical.

The technical test has 55 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and the clinical test has 5 of the clinical tasks to be performed.

Both these tests are to be passed separately by the students and then only, they can get the certificate and the license.

  • The exam comprises of 2 tests – technical/theory exam and practical/clinical test
  • The theoretical test is based on the classroom training session whereas the clinical test is based on the practical training session
  • The theoretical test paper consists of a specified number of multiple-choice questions (MCQs in English only)
  • Some students find it difficult to solve the paper in English, therefore some states also provide an alternative of the oral exam in other languages for the convenience of the students
  • The practical test consists of any 5 random clinical tasks to be performed successfully by the students within the given specified time
  • The instructor will be present during both the tests to monitor the task of the students

Results of the CNA License Exam

The results of the CNA license exam are out online only and thus, students have to check out for them online. If one passes both the tests, then it is definitely possible to get the certification and the license too.

If one passes one of the 2 tests and fails in another one, then a retest is taken for that paper only. If one fails in both the tests, then retest comes for both the papers.

Most of the states permit the students to challenge the exam 3 times within the completion of the CNA training program. Retraining becomes mandatory when a student fails to clear the exam even for 3 consecutive times. A few institutions offer free CNA classes for the repeaters from the same institution.

In short, students have to take CNA classes and successfully pass the state-approved exam to get the certification and the license.

Acquiring a CNA License

The training programs to get the certification are provided by various schools and colleges and there are certain criteria for admission into the program and eventually get certified.

CNA license by the state has many conditions attached to it, for instance, you should have a clean background without any criminal or other offenses. The criteria differ from one state to the other but the background checks are mandatory in every state.

If you have a past record of such offenses you may not be able to get enrolled in the training program.

The test for enrolling also differs and basically the reading and writing abilities of the aspirant are tested and admission is granted accordingly. A reading test is usually the way to induct individuals for the program and it is expected that the individual has at least 9th-grade reading level.

If you are not able to come up to the mark in the reading or writing tests, the educational centers arrange for separate language labs and basic education labs where you would be given material and training to read and write till you reach the required level.

CNA License Exam

Apart from such material, there are also computer programs available which would help you to improve your reading abilities to the required level.

Undergoing the training for 10.5 weeks or so and getting a license is the best way to start a career in the health care sector. So, it is worth it to prepare yourself for the training program so as to get the certification.

The best part of getting a license certification to become a nursing assistant is that you would get many job opportunities that pay you really well for a starter. A certified nursing assistant is of great demand in hospitals, nursing homes, mental wards and private home nursing.

The certification and license acquired speak for themselves and there are many lucrative job options that you may not get as a nursing aide without it.

The pay is good for a license assistant and can range between $9 – $15 depending upon your experience, skills and knowledge. As your experience increases, your pay too raises and the scope for growth in the same career increases.

Additional certifications are provided by such schools and colleges and you can also pursue them along with the main CNA course. These additional certifications will help you to work in homes for the purpose of private nursing.

Private nursing is also on the rise as there are increasing cases of patients or elderly individuals who require medical attention and day-to-day care for the long term. So, you can pursue additional certification courses which would increase your value in the job market.

Different Ways to Verify the License

  • Search for the address of the State’s Nurse Aide Registry and the local address of the licensing authority, and contact either by calling or by sending email
  • Check for the online process of verification or status update (some states may also inform the status of the license through the online system of verification)
  • Visit the licensing authority’s office personally, if the online verification system is not available, then carry along the certificate, number, serial number, issue date and other relevant documents that might be required for verification
  • Deposit the fees demanded by the authority for the verification purpose
  • Request the licensing authority to post a hard copy of the license to your mailing address and also ask them to send a copy via email

Steps for Renewal of CNA License

  • First, obtain the renewal form and fill the details in it
  • Obtain the second section of the form filled by the employer (current or within past 24 months)
  • After completing the filling of the form, email it to the mailing address of the respective state’s licensing board
  • Keep checking for the status of renewal online through their official website

The license renewal may take a maximum of 2 weeks.

Transfer of CNA License

  • Contact the nurse aide registry of your own state (by phone or email)
  • Ask for the application form and fill in the details
  • Submit the completed application form to the nurse aide registry, along with your current contact information
  • Contact the new state’s nurse aide registry and ask them about the submission of the completed application form for the reciprocity (submission by email/post or in-person)
  • Don’t forget to inquire about the delivery of your new CNA license
  • Be in touch with the nurse aide registries of both the states regularly so as to avoid any complications

Documents to be Submitted for the Application of Reciprocity

  • Identity card (mostly driver’s license)
  • The approval from your state’s nursing registry
  • Proof indicating whether you are working as a certified nursing aide within the past 2 years
  • Latest payslip
  • Social security card
  • Educational and background check documents

Reasons for Losing Your CNA License

  • Failing to complete the renewal procedure before the due date of expiry
  • Failing to continue the nursing practice within a period of 24 months
  • Working as a certified nursing assistant, but failing to produce the proof when asked for
  • Losing the permit at the workplace or anywhere and failing to find it back

Advantages of the CNA License

  • It helps the students to get paid higher
  • It is considered as a proof of skills, talent, and efficiency of the students in nursing
  • It helps to acquire many opportunities to work at different health organizations

However, it is essential to obtain the hard copy of the CNA license, as it bears the original seal of the issuing authority. This hard copy can also be presented to the employers whenever required or to any independent verification agency for verification.

Why Should You Protect Your Nursing License

Many nurses rank “nursing school” as one of their most stressful life experiences. Other nurses would say that taking the NCLEX was an even worse experience.

When a new nurse enters the workforce, protecting their hard-earned nursing license is a top priority. As time passes, most seasoned nurses relax somewhat. They may still worry about it, although not with the same level of obsessiveness as they did before.

There are several reasons to remain conscientious about protecting your nurse license.

  • The actions you take to protect your nursing license can increase the quality of patient care outcomes.
  • Losing your nursing license can be a traumatic life event and would surely top the stress of nursing school.
  • You would be protecting your time and monetary investment by keeping your license.
  • You would avoid the legal ramifications associated with losing your license.

How to Protect Your Nursing License

Many factors can contribute to the protection of your nursing license such as careful thorough charting and completing the necessary requirements to keep your license.

However, there are two global categories that many of these factors can be placed in:

  1. Use critical thinking and self-reflection in everything you do as a nurse.
  2. Learn to say “no” while dismissing judgmental opinions.

For example, one way is to conduct a self-evaluation, reflect on the results using critical thinking, and carry out an action plan.

For example, one self-reflection question (as you do start to self reflect you will think of more) is to ask yourself “What skills am I most competent at and in what areas are my nursing skills weak?

Now compare it to your peers and employer’s evaluations.

Do their evaluations match your conceived nursing skills self-image?

If not, why not?

Are you being defensive if your self-assessment does not match another person’s assessment of your skills?

Is your self-assessment accurate, or do others have valid points about your performance and clinical decision-making skills?

You need to have an open mind when doing this exercise and form your answers using critical thinking and not emotion.

After assessing your nursing strengths and weakness, make a plan of action to work on skills that you feel could increase your competency level. Your weak skills could be your downfall and lead to mistakes that put your license and patient at risk.

Although an imbalanced sense of self could result in the failure to pay close attention to details when performing your highly self-rated skills. These skills are often performed on “autopilot” and have room for error.

The other category that contributes to the safety of your nursing license is not caring what people think about you. What does this mean?

Do you worry that if you ask for help or the advice of more experienced nurses that you will be seen as incompetent?

Many nurses simply refuse to ask for help.

However, consider the ramifications of performing skills or acting on the knowledge that you are unsure of. When a situation occurs that you need help, ask for it, because the patient’s safety and your license depends on it.

What about working that overtime shift your co-workers or manager is pressuring you to sign up for?

In your heart, you know that working another shift will leave you dead on your feet and unable to function properly.

But, the unit is short-staffed and you worry about what they will think if you say no. It does not matter what they think! Protect yourself and your patients by mustering up the courage to say no.

What about the unsafe staffing ratio scenario?

Refuse to accept assignments that are unsafe. “I was worried about what others would think of me” is not a legal defense.

I would rather lose my job for the refusal to participate in unsafe care practices than my license for patient abandonment due to the high volume of patients under my care. It is that simple.


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