What Is a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)?

What Is a CNA?

If you are thinking of becoming a CNA, first of all, you need to learn about this career as much as possible.

To begin with, you should know that it is a very important career that can be also very rewarding.

Also, these specialists are in great demand and in comparison with other medical careers, this one develops really fast.

CNAs or certified nursing assistants are specialists that work under the supervision of Registered Nurses (RNs) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs).

They are responsible for providing care to their patients and helping them with various issues.

Also, these specialists are known as Nursing Assistants (NAs), Patient Care Assistants (PCAs), or State Tested Nurse Assistants (STNAs).

You need to know that there is a specific scope of practice as well as ethic code for CNAs in each state.

In this article, we’ve gathered some clue facts about this career you need to learn about.

What CNA Classes Are Available Online?

If you want to get your CNA training, there is a variety of programs available online for CNAs.

They offer the same list of disciplines as campus-based courses.

It means that you can obtain a high-level training whether you apply for an online or on-campus accredited program.

Both options are great so you only need to decide which one works better for you.

If you are well-disciplined and absolutely independent, self-paced training programs can be the best choice for you.

It means that you decide on your own what speed is comfortable for you when it comes to your training.

You just develop your own training schedule based on your work and personal responsibilities.

Also, in such a way, you can choose those classes you are most interested in.

This option offers a whole bunch of flexibility.

Nevertheless, you need to make a well-evaluated decision taking into consideration all the available options as the price of training is pretty high.

There are lots of programs that are known as medical assisting programs that are offered as a diploma or a certificate.

Each of these options has different requirements and length however not all of them aim to prepare you for a CNA career.

You need to make sure that after completing it you’ll be able to work as a CNA and not as a medical coder or biller.

The last options are absolutely different careers while the programs may have the same name.

What Is a CNA?

CNAs perform a whole variety of responsibilities that may vary depending on your employer and location.

As a CNA you may work in such facilities as hospitals, nursing homes, day-care centers, and even personal homes and assisted living facilities.

CNAs help to make a connection between patients and LPNs and RNs providing the last ones with a variety of important information.

Usually, these specialists perform general-care services in order to help their patients.

It is the patient’s needs that influence the list of CNA’s responsibilities.

Among the most common duties, there are recording vital signs, assisting with daily issues, helping with personal hygiene, and so on.

Also, they may assist nurses and doctors when they perform different medical procedures.

The list of duties includes such aspects as:

  • Adjust the positions of patients on beds or tables;
  • Assess the physical conditions of patients to aid in diagnosis or treatment;
  • Operate medical equipment;
  • Apply bandages, dressings, or splints;
  • Move patients to or from treatment areas;
  • Prepare medical instruments or equipment for use;
  • Transport biological or other medical materials;
  • Explain technical medical information to patients.

As you can see, CNAs are responsible for helping patients with their daily needs that influence the quality of their lives.

They work with patients of different ages in different settings.

Due to the fact, CNAs spend the most time with their patients they are responsible for gathering vital signs and info about the patient’s condition.

You need to keep in mind that it is a challenging career that requires lots of physical and mental health.

However, if you really want to help others, it will help you stay motivated in any situation.

CNAs vs. Orderlies vs. Medical Assistants vs. Psychiatric Aides

CNAs, orderlies, psychiatric aides, and medical assistants usually gathered in one huge category of medical workers.

Of course, they have some common duties but there are lots of significant differences as well.

Below, you can find a short description of each career to help you understand the difference between them and choose the one you are interested in.


An orderly is a hospital attendant that perform non-medical care services.

Also, they are responsible for the maintenance of systematic operations.

To be able to work in this sphere, you don’t need to have a degree or a certificate as they don’t perform any treatment activities.

Psychiatric Aides

Psychiatric aids have the same responsibilities as CNAs but work in a different environment.

Daily routines in mental health wards and psychiatric hospitals differ significantly from regular hospitals.

To be able to work there, you need to have a great understanding of patients’ specific concerns and needs.

Medical Assistants

You don’t need to have a degree or a certificate to be able to work as a medical assistant.

They help nurses and doctors with various routine tasks and they cannot participate in patient’s treatment as much as CNAs.

Certified Nurse Assistants/Aides

CNAs are specialists that are responsible for administrating basic care including such points as taking vital signs, gathering info, tending to the hygiene needs, and so on.

CNAs should complete a state-approved program and obtain their certification.

As a result, these specialists have more authority than all others listed above.

Also, they have to perform a wider range of duties but also have a higher salary.

As it was mentioned before, a medical assistant is considered a synonym to a nursing assistant.

They may have lots of similar or even the same responsibilities.

The difference is that the usage of these terms depends on your location.

You need to know that each state has its own regulatory body and requirements for CNAs and medical assistants.

Also, there are loys in common between CNAs and orderlies.

The first ones are responsible for the patients’ care, taking their vital signs, and communicating with other medical specialists.

The second ones usually work in hospitals and help patients with various daily cores such as transferring from one place to another.

How Much Does a CNA Earn?

When it comes to salary rates, CNAs usually work on an hourly basis instead of an annual one.

It means that your salary may vary depending on the number of working hours you have.

It’s up to you whether you want to have 40 or 60 working hours per week.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that the average annual salary of a CNA is about $27 520 per year.

Of course, the more experience you have the higher your salary will be.

Also, you can increase your salary by obtaining some additional certifications such as a Patient Care Technician (PCT).

Moreover, you can always advance your career and become an RN after completing some extra training.

One other option is additional credentials such as a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA) who can give medications to patients.

You need to know that most employers are ready to pay for your additional training and allow fulfilling clinical hours at work.

It is a great option for busy parents, working students and other people who need a flexible schedule.

Among other aspects that may influence your salary, there are job availability and location.

One other aspect that influences your payment is the setting you want to work at.

The list of options includes nursing homes, hospitals, retail clinics, and urgent care clinics.

The last one gains increasing popularity so these facilities need more qualified nursing assistants.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics named industries that have the highest level of employment including such options as:

  • Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities);
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals;
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly;
  • Home Health Care Services;
  • Employment Services.

Also, there are industries that offer higher salaries for CNAs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the list of the five highest paying industries for CNAs includes:

  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
  • Facilities Support Services
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Educational Support Services
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools

You need to know that there are states that are in a bigger need for qualified CNAs than others.

You can use data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get info about the issue as well as the location quotients.

According to the latest data, the highest concentration of CNA jobs is in such states as:

  • Rhode Island;
  • North Dakota;
  • Kansas;
  • Maine;
  • Arkansas.

You need to know that CNAs are in great demand nowadays and there are no signs that the situation will change soon.

You don’t need to be discouraged if there is a low concentration of CNA jobs in your state.

These specialists are required in numerous facilities all over the country so the number of career options will increase in the nearest future.

Reasons to Become a CNA?

The turnover rate for CNAs is pretty high as most specialists tend to move up into other medical careers that require more involvement.

In other words, it is not so hard to find a job as a CNA.

CNAs are especially required in those facilities that offer long-term care services and living assistance.

You need to know that CNAs play an important role in the healthcare sphere and most facilities understand it well.

If you need some support while working as a CNA, you can address the National Association of Health Care Assistants or any similar organization.

Lots of CNAs decide to advance their careers and get a better job as it is pretty easy to get the training required for becoming an RN.

You can combine your work and online training to get your degree.

In fact, there is a whole variety of associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees that can help CNAs get better employment.

Also, if you want to become an RN, CNA job can be a great stepping stone for you.

Working as a CNA, you can gain some valuable experience as well as understand the essence of this job better.

Moreover, you can become an LPN after working as a CNA for a certain amount of time.

If you are passionate about helping others and working with different medical specialists, CNA is a perfect option for you.

This career offers a variety of opportunities for professional and personal growth.

CNA’s Education And Licensure Requirements

To get your CNA training, you can apply for a specialized program provided by community colleges, online schools, and medical facilities.

Also, some healthcare facilities can hire employees with no training and experience and provide them with on-the-job training.

Moreover, there are programs that combine classes at a school or college and practice at a hospital.

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

It aims to check your theory knowledge and proficiency in various skills.

To get ready for this exam, you can use various materials such as practice tests and guides that are available online, we have here a CNA practice test you can use for free.

To be able to work as a CNA, you are obliged to get your certification.

Also, you need to know that your license should be renewed every two years.

You need to complete 48 hours of extra training to renew your license.

Lots of employers offer education subsidization for those who need to renew their license.

You should keep in mind that becoming a CNA, you can get a stable and fruitful career that also provides you with lots of flexibility

Also, you need to have some important traits and qualities that can help you become a professional CNA.

Below you can find some info about these traits.

Read more: How to Get Ready for Your CNA Test?

Communication Skills

Great communication skills are very important for CNAs as they need to interact with patients, their families, and colleagues.

Effective communication is key to CNA’s professional success.


It is important to be patient if you want to work as a CNA.

These specialists need to work with different patients helping them with a whole bunch of issues such as bathing, dressing and so on.

These tasks require patience.

Time Management and Organizational Skills

CNAs have lots of responsibilities and need to perform a variety of tasks.

To be able to do it properly, they need to have excellent self-organization and time-management skills.

Physical Stamina

Nursing assistants and orderlies need to have good stamina as they need to spend lots of time on their feet.

Also, they should be able to perform such tasks as lifting and moving patients that require some physical strength.

Observation Skills

An excellent sense of awareness, as well as attention to detail, is very important to CNAs.

Thus, they can take proper care of their patients.

What Courses Are Required To Become a CNA?

An accredited training program completion is required for obtaining a license as a CNA.

During your training, you’ll learn how to take care of your patients properly.

Also, you’ll learn about anatomy and communication skills.

Among other topics, there are:

  • CPR/First Aid/AED;
  • Infection control;
  • How to take vital signs;
  • Range of motion exercises;
  • Communication and teamwork;
  • Patient care;
  • Workplace safety.

After completing your training, you have all the required knowledge and skills you need to have to pass the certification exam.

Just make sure that your program is state-approved especially when it comes to online training.

Also, don’t forget about clinical training that is required for certification.

It is an important part of your education that aims to build your skills.

You need to know that each state has its specific education requirements so make sure to learn them before choosing the program.

Usually, you need about 6-8 weeks to complete your training.

Now, you know everything about the CNA career and other related careers.

Just make sure to make a good research before choosing a training program.

Leave a Comment