CNA – Certification or Degree? Here’s What You Should Do

CNA - Certification or Degree? Here's What You Should Do

As a CNA, you need to have excellent knowledge of basic patient care.

In this article, you can learn about a CNA degree and whether it is required for work.

Is There a Possibility to Get a CNA Degree?

To be able to become a nurse, you need to have a college degree but when it comes to CNAs, it isn’t required.

Nevertheless, obtaining a degree you can use it to continue your education in the future.

Usually, the curriculum for CNAs includes such disciplines as anatomy, medical terminology, physiology, pediatrics, and some other subjects.

If you are thinking about advancing your career in the future, you can become a licensed practical or licensed vocational nurse (LPN/LVN).

To be able to do it, you need to complete a specific training program designed to prepare qualified LPNs and LVNs.

Also, you can obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree that will allow you to become an RN in the future.

Associate’s Degree Programs

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When it comes to an associate’s degree program, it covers such subjects as anatomy, nutrition, nursing, microbiology, chemistry, and others.

Usually, you need about 2-3 years of training to obtain your associate’s degree in nursing.

However, some colleges give students credits if they have some prior training or working experience as a CNA.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

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While an associate’s degree training will take you about 2-3 years, applying for a CNA-to-RN bridge program, you can complete your training faster.

Enrolling in an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree program after obtaining an associate’s degree, you have an opportunity to complete it faster.

Most educational facilities take into consideration some previous coursework of their students.

After becoming an RN with DSN, you can get better career prospects as well as a higher salary.

CNA Certification

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As soon as your training is completed, you need to sit for the competency exam.

Its successful completion is required for the state registration so you can start working as a CNA.

Why is it important to get your certification to be able to work as a CNA?

Thus, you can prove your proficiency and skillfulness as a qualified specialist who knows how to take care of patients properly.

It means that you know how to perform various procedures such as taking vital signs and dealing with emergency situations.

As a CNA you are going to perform a whole bunch of duties and it is important to perform them really well.

Also, it is a way to show that your skills were verified and approved so your potential employer can be sure you know how to perform your duties properly.

There is a general certification that is required in all states.

However, you can make a choice to apply for one or several specialized professional certifications.

These certifications can provide you with better career prospects as well as a higher salary.

CNA Certification Requirements

If you want to get your certification as a CNA, you should be able to meet a certain set of requirements.

Just keep in mind that each state may have its own requirements but there are some general points as well.

For example, if you want to get your certification through the Washington State Department of Health, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • At least 85 hours of training in a state-approved CNA program;
  • A passing score on the competency exam;
  • A completed statement with information about physical and mental status, felony convictions and other personal information;
  • HIV/AIDS training.

Most states have pretty similar requirements with just a little difference.

However, make sure to learn about certification requirements in your state properly.

Also, you need to make sure that the training program you are going to apply for is state-approved.

To get this info, you need to address your local nursing or health board.

CNA Certification Endorsements

If you’ve worked as a CNA in one state and want to continue working in another one, you need to consider some specific requirements.

There are states that don’t require additional training to get your CNA license to work there.

You only need to apply for certification endorsement.

Just keep in mind that you should have appropriate training and experience as well as an active CNA license in your state.

CNA Certification Exam

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To sit for the CNA certification exam, you need to address a third-party agency in your area.

There can be some small differences between exams in different states.

Nevertheless, typically this exam includes a bunch of multiple-choice questions as well as a practical test.

Speaking of the practical section, you’ll be asked to show your proficiency in various skills.

Usually, there are about five tasks that aim to check your skills that are evaluated by an RN.

You need to remember that all these tasks are scenario-based so you need to follow some logical steps to complete them.

One other point is that written and practical sections should be completed on the same day.

Usually, you have about 2 hours to answer written questions and about 25-45 minutes to complete the second portion.

CNA Certification Exam Tips:

  • Stay calm even if you’ve made a mistake or skipped smth while performing your skills. Usually, you have an opportunity to correct one mistake per skill.
  • It is very important to show the most critical elements of each skill.
  • Try some practice tests to get ready for the exam. It is a great opportunity to learn about the questions you may have during the exam, their types and the amount of time you have their completion.

During your training?

You’ll learn a whole variety of subjects related to nursing and the exam aims to check your knowledge on all those disciplines.

There are some topics that may be included in your CNA certification exam:

  • Activities of daily living;
  • Infection control;
  • Safety;
  • Data collection and reporting;
  • Mental health needs;
  • Cultural needs;
  • Client rights;
  • Law and ethics.

You need to address your state board to submit an application for the exam.

Also, there you can get info on the application process and requirements as well as agencies that administrates it.

CNA Recertification

You need to remember that your CNA license should be renewed every two years.

To be able to do it, you need to complete at least 48 hours of continuing education during the mentioned period.

In some states, CNAs are obliged to complete 12 hours of training every year to be able to get their certification renewal.

Your training should cover some important aspects related to healthcare topics such as:

  • Domestic violence;
  • Patient rights;
  • Medical record documentation;
  • First aid.

To get info about the acceptable training options and facilities where you can get, you need to address your state board.

Also, you need to provide proof that you’ve been paid for your work as a CNA during the last two years.

You need to know that most employers tend to pay for the training course required for certification renewal.

What Will You Learn During These Courses?

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Despite the fact that CNA training takes not so much time, you are going to learn a wide range of disciplines.

After it, you are going to have a certain amount of training in a clinical setting.

During your training, you’ll be able yo learn how to work in various medical settings such as hospitals, nursing facilities, and home care.

Students are taught such aspects as:

  • Long-term care;
  • Basic nursing care;
  • Taking vital signs;
  • Controlling infections;
  • Emergency procedures;
  • Personal care skills;
  • Communication skills.

How Much Time Do You Need to Complete Your Training?

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Usually, you need from 4 to 12 weeks to complete a CNA training program.

All these programs are divided into 2 parts – theory classes and practical training.

Speaking of state-approved programs, that contains at least 75 hours of classes and practice.

For example, a training program offered by Daytona College consists of 120 hours of training that are divided into two parts.

The first part includes four weeks of classes while the second one has two weeks of clinical practice.

CNA Certification Online

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There is a variety of online training programs for CNAs provided by community colleges and vocational schools.

If you decide to apply for online training, you’ll be obliged to complete your clinical training in a local hospital.

Just make sure to check whether the program you are interested in is approved by your state board.

It is important to read the program description very attentively.

For example, in Oregon, there are two levels of CNA training and online programs cover only one of them.

In any case, online training usually covers only theory classes while practice requires some lab classes as well as hands-on clinical training.

Of course, online training has lots of benefits such as flexible schedules and lower costs.

However, you need to make sure, the program you are interested in is state-approved otherwise you won’t be eligible to sit for the CNA certification exam.

How Much Does CNA Training Cost?

The cost of CNA training varies depending on its type as it can be a diploma or an associate’s degree course.

For example, the CNA training program provided by the American Career College costs about $17 000 while the accelerated program costs about $13 000.

Speaking of an associate degree program, its time can be twice higher than a diploma course but it gives you an opportunity to become an RN.

Also, it’s not enough to pay for your education as you also need to pay some fees for the certification exam that is held by Prometric or PearsonVue.

The price differs in various states so you need to address your state board to get info on the issue.

Are There Prerequisites?

To be able to apply for a CNA training program, you need to have a high-school diploma or GED as well as their school transcript.

Also, you may be asked to complete a criminal background check as well as pass an entrance exam.

What Accreditation is There for My Program?

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As it was mentioned before, you need to choose a training program that was approved by a state board.

Each state has a list of approved programs including the info about how long each one is approved.

Just keep in mind that usually the large program is accredited by one of the major accreditation bodies.

It also should be mentioned that the program’s accreditation is very important for your further education.

In fact, accreditation proves that the program meets education standards that are used all over the country.

A school or program can obtain accreditation after completing a rigorous application process through one of the independent organizations.

Usually, these organizations try to stay updated obtaining info from state governments and health departments.

Thus, they can evaluate efficiently whether the program offers an efficient level of education.

Moreover, applying for an accredited program, you have an opportunity to apply for financial aid if necessary.

One other point is that obtaining an accredited school training, you can continue your training at any other accredited school.

Finally, it is really important to get an accredited training program yo get a license in another state.

You need to know that schools need to renew their accreditation every 5-10 years depending on a school.

In other words, it is important to check how long a certain program will maintain its accreditation before applying for it.

Main Accreditation Bodies

The Accreditation Commission for Education (ACEN), formerly known as NLNAC, is responsible for the accreditation of a whole variety of nursing programs (associate’s, diploma, bachelor’s and master’s degrees).

The Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is responsible for the accreditation of bachelor’s and master’s nursing programs.

CNA Jobs

Speaking of the CNA career outlook, you can expect significant growth of career options in the nearest future.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of offers will increase by 11% by 2026.

When it comes to the most promising employment options, there are in-home services and community-based care facilities.

Also, these specialists may work in such settings as assisted living facilities and hospitals.

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Home Health Care

Working in home health care as a CNA, you are going to take care of one person instead of numerous patients.

While the environment is less stressful and the schedule isn’t so frenetic, you can expect a lower salary working in this environment.

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When it comes to hospitals, it can be one of the most fruitful options for CNAs.

Working there, you can expect a higher salary, various benefits as well as lots of interaction with other specialists.

Also, there is a possibility to work in different departments while developing various new skills that can be really useful in the future.

Nevertheless, it isn’t the best option for those who want to have long-term relations with their patients.

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Nursing and Long-Term Care Facilities

Considering the growth of the aging population, the demand for qualified CNAs increases constantly.

Usually, these people need some long-term care so CNAs can find employment in nursing and long-term care facilities.

It is a great option if you want to have long-term relations with patients.

In fact, there is a bunch of CNAs that consider it the best part of their job but it can be pretty hard and exhausting.

As a result, most CNAs want to advance there care and decide to continue their training to become an RN.

If you think about advancing your career and moving out of the CNA job while still taking care of others, there are some great options.

Vocational Training, CNA, Career, Nursing Facilities

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)

In fact, LPN – it is the next step after becoming a CNA and these specialists also take care of patients.

There are many wonderful programs across the state for LPNs.

Usually, they have more responsibilities and duties due to their extra training that provides LPNs with some extra skills.

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Occupational Therapy Assistant

OT assistants are specialists that help patients that need support with regaining skills required for daily life.

They are supervised by occupational therapists while performing their duties.

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Personal Care Aides

Personal care aids not only help their patients with some daily tasks but also become their companions.

These specialists work in the home of only one patient they take care of and cooperate with other professionals to provide the required services.

As you see CNA is a great career option that can provide you with lots of various benefits.

If you want to become a CNA, just make sure to find a school that offers high-quality education, qualified professors, and an excellent schedule.

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