A certified nursing assistant (CNA) typically works in nursing care facilities and hospitals where they take care of patient’s daily needs.
They work as assistants to nurses on-duty, helping with patient care. It’s an excellent career for someone who enjoys working closely with patients and building relationships with those in nursing homes.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what a CNA does and how you can become one.
A CNA plays an integral role at the hospitals and offices they work at. While CNAs provide important care, they are also entry-level positions that can give someone a taste of the healthcare industry.
It’s a fantastic place to start your patient care career, as the job requires only a high school degree. Many people use it as a stepping stone into other careers, such as becoming a registered nurse (RN).
A CNA works under a registered nurse and supports a patient by assisting with activities of daily living (ADLs). This includes helping patients with their personal hygiene, assisting with medication adherence, changing bedpans, administering first aid, and more.
Certified nursing assistants often develop close relationships with their patients, so it’s important for anyone considering this field to be a caring and empathetic person.
Every CNA’s position will be a little different because they work in a variety of settings.
While many CNAs do work in hospitals, some find themselves working in patient homes instead. As the U.S. population continues to skew older, the CNA employment outlook will continue to grow, as a big part of their job is caring for the elderly.
A certified nursing assistant’s responsibilities will vary depending on where they work. A CNA working at a nursing home will have different responsibilities than one at a hospital.
However, their job responsibilities will generally look something like this:
Turn and move patients
Monitor patient’s condition and vital signs
Take blood pressure readings
Gather medical equipment and other supplies
Assist patients by fulfilling a care plan
Bathe and groom patients (brush teeth, shave, comb hair, etc.)
Write down a patient’s medical records (also known as charting)
Assist with light medical procedures
Assist with and record intake of medication
Take care of wounds and check call lights
While these are just a few of the duties a CNA may be required to perform, they give you a general idea of what to expect.
Things get a little more complicated when you take state law into account. A CNA is permitted to do different tasks based on where they are practicing.
Nursing homes and adult care facilities are where you’ll find most CNAs. Because they work so closely with patients, they’re required to have excellent interpersonal skills and provide emotional support to improve patient well-being.
Because a CNA mainly supports registered nursing staff and patients, their experience requirements are not as rigorous.
These are entry-level positions requiring only a high school diploma and certification. There are some training programs, mainly from community colleges, that teach common CNA skills.
These aren’t mandatory in most cases, but you should review the CNA job description before applying to make sure you meet the requirements.
Depending on your state, you may have to complete a training program lasting anywhere from four to eight weeks that teaches you the technical skills required to be a CNA. You’ll learn how to care for patients and the ethical and moral responsibilities of a CNA.
CNA certification requirements also vary by state. However, you’ll likely have to do a written and oral exam where you showcase your nursing skills.
It’s a critical step toward becoming a CNA, as any reputable hiring manager will look for these certifications.
Many states require CNAs to be certified through the NNAAP, or the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program. It’s a two-part exam that will test your skills to ensure you’re ready for the job.
If you’ve completed a CNA program, they will assist you with studying for the exam and finding where to take it in your area.
As mentioned, CNA employment rates are trending upwards, with the job outlook growing faster than average (8% between 2019–2029).
The BLS reports that, on average, a CNA will take home around $30,830 per year, or $14.82 per hour.
For many, this is a stepping stone to a career as an RN. It’s a good way to gain work experience for your resume and develop the communication skills required of a long-term caregiver.
It’s important to have an excellent CNA resume when applying for your first position, as you may be competing against many other qualified applicants.
Here are five tips that can help set you apart from the competition.
Your CNA resume should be tailored specifically to the job you’re applying for.
You can use a resume builder filled with templates to get started, but you should customize it to the specific position. Take note of the hard skills and soft skills mentioned in the job description and include them on your resume if you have those skills.
Not only does it make you look more qualified, but it can help you pass automatic resume screening tools, such as an applicant tracking system (ATS).
Studies show that recruiters spend only 7.4 seconds scanning a resume before moving on.
It makes sense, as some jobs can receive hundreds of resumes from qualified applicants.
So make sure you put the most important information at the top of your resume.
This way, when a recruiter begins reading, they’ll see your contact information and previous personal care experience first.
Keep your resume (and cover letter) recent and relevant.
Only include work experience that’s related to your long-term care experience. Keep your most recent experience at the top of your resume and move down chronologically.
If you don’t have much experience, you can highlight the aspects of your other jobs that relate to the nursing world. This includes things like solid communication skills and any caretaking skills you’ve developed.
Here's an example:
Your resume format should contain specific things you’ve accomplished at your past jobs. And, if possible, you should back up your experience with stats.
For example, if you trained and managed employees in the past, be specific and mention how many members were on the team.
Your resume should start with a summary, followed by your previous experience and your education. Recruiters value work experience over education and may not make it to the bottom of the page, so it’s crucial that the experience section lives at the top.
There are numerous nursing assistant positions currently hiring. You can find positions with nursing facilities, retirement centers, hospitals, and even the government.
Check out the Jobcase job board to find nursing assistant jobs in your area.
Working as a CNA can be highly rewarding. And because the job outlook is positive, it’s also a relatively stable position to seek out.
It’s a fulfilling career where you can use your communication and personal care skills to improve the lives of others.
You can find more tips about resume writing in order to land your dream CNA job by visiting our Getting Hired Resource Center.
Are you interested in becoming a CNA?