CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants)—also known as nursing assistants, nurse’s aides, or PCAs (Patient Care Assistants)—are the foundation of long term care. While under the supervision of an RN (Registered Nurse) or LPN (Licenced Practical Nurse), CNAs help residents with their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and other care needs in nursing homes.
So how does one get started with their CNA training? Get Educated lists four simple steps one will take in their journey to becoming a CNA:
- Earn a high school diploma or GED
- Complete CNA training from a state-approved facility (such as Allied Health Career Training)
- Complete in-person clinical requirement
- Pass the certification and be listed in the state’s CNA registry
Of course, these steps are easier said than done. There are many obstacles for those pursuing a path as a CNA, some financial, some personal. One former CNA who went on to become an educator of CNAs recently shared her journey on the LTC Heroes podcast. “I started taking every little class I could once I found out there were payer sources,” said Dianne Powell, the founder of Allied Health Career Training.
Still, money did not solve all of Powell’s problems. She also had to overcome her concerns of absorbing a vast amount of material. “Being a little bit older than most of the people who might go on to be a CNA, I was worried that I wouldn’t have good study habits,” she said. You can listen to the interview below:
CNA Career Advancement Opportunities
Many of those who become CNAs have higher nursing goals in mind. That is why the realistic opportunity of career advancement is essential to individuals entering the nursing field as CNAs. As it turns out, career advancement opportunities lead to greater job satisfaction, resulting in better care for patients in hospitals and residents in long term care facilities.
Knowing what CNA career advancement opportunities could help individuals decide whether or not they want to go through with CNA training. It is, thus, appropriate to here discuss the differences between the roles and requirements of CNAs and other nurses before discussing CNA training.
CNAs are on the “ground-level” of care in long term care facilities. They care for residents, and a CNA position tends to be a stepping stone into other jobs such as, LPN and RN. Some of the responsibilities of a CNA may include:
- Bathing patients or residents
- Documentation of resident care information into long term care software
- Cleaning of resident rooms
- Preparing rooms for admission of new residents in a nursing home
- Dressing wounds
- Answering resident calls or bells
Those interested in becoming a CNA should be aware that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the expected median pay of nursing assistants is $30,830 per year or $14.82 per hour.
Of course, some will only go through CNA training because they are looking to ultimately advance into higher positions in their nursing career. So what do those other career paths look like? Below are the eight top CNA career advancement opportunities:
1. Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Licenced Vocational Nurse (LVN): An LPN or LVN is a step above a CNA. Hence, they assume more responsibilities over residents. This means that advancing to this position results in better pay and better benefits. Some of the tasks that an LPN performs include:
- Taking of a resident’s blood pressure
- Changing bandages and
- Reporting on residents’ medical status through eMAR software
The educational requirements to become an LPN include:
● A high school diploma or GED
● Graduate from an accredited LPN program
The expected median income of an LPN is $48,820 per year or $23.47 per hour.
2. Registered Nurse (RN): CNAs who earn their Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can become RNs in as little as two years. Some of the responsibilities of an RN include:
- Creation of resident and patient care plans
- Assisting with diagnoses
- Overseeing and guiding CNAs and LPNs
An RN can expect a median income of $75,330 per year or $36.22 per hour. Becoming an RN requires one to take one of the following education paths:
- Bachelor’s degree in nursing
- Associate’s degree in nursing
- Diploma from a state-approved nursing program
3. Legal Nurse Consultant: Nurses interested in becoming legal nurse consultants first need an RN license with relevant work experience. Legal nurse consultants assist lawyers and law enforcement with medical research and court testimonies if required. Registered Nursing notes that the average salary of a legal nurse consultant can range from $55,092 to $211,399, depending on the state, city, and organization. The educational requirements and certifications needed to advance to this job are:
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BDN)
- A current, unrestricted RN license
- Evidence of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience within the last five years
- The successful completion of the LNCC exam.
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4. Clinical Nurse Specialists: They help with developing care standards in hospitals and other facilities. Clinical nurse specialists do not work directly with patients or residents. Hence, this job would appeal to those looking to move on from that line of work. ZipRecruiter notes that a clinical nurse specialist can expect to earn $106,407 per year or $51 per hour. The requirements for becoming a clinical nurse specialist are:
- Experience as an RN
- Completing master’s or postgraduate doctoral programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
- Completing 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to this role
- Taking the exam administered by the ANCC to earn a CNS certification
- Renewing the CNS certification every five years
5. Nurse Practitioner: An RN with an advanced degree can smoothly transition to a nurse practitioner. Many will have their own practice, but those who choose to be employed also enjoy lots of perks and benefits. The median salary of a nurse practitioner is $112,868 per year.
6. Managed Care Nurse: Healthcare and medicine can be complex subjects to patients and their families. A managed care nurse helps simplify things by acting as the “person-in-the-middle,” or the intermediary between patients and healthcare providers. A managed care nurse can expect a median salary of $77,927 per year with a range of $64,101 to $115,430. As for the educational requirements and certifications needed for this role, they include:
- An Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BDN)
- An active RN license
7. Certified RN Anesthetist (CRNA): These nurses administer anesthesia and assist surgeons and others during operations. One can expect a median salary of $191,394 per year. The requirements needed to become a CRNA include:
- Previous experience as an RN
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree
- One year of experience in an acute care setting
8. Nurse Administrator: For nurses who are good leaders or managers, this may be a career path that would interest them. Nurse administrators oversee RNs and other nursing staff. Hence there is very little patient or resident interaction. Nurse administrators can expect a median salary of $72,867 per year, or $35 /hour. As for the educational requirements needed to become a nurse administrator, they include:
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree
- (Recommended) A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree
- Minimum of five years of experience in nursing as an RN
- Certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Allied Health Career Training Benefits
CNA training can be a long and difficult process, especially for those with financial constraints, time constraints, or family commitments. That is why, in 2011, Powell founded Allied Health Career Training (AHCT), which assists students with their CNA training. “I was at a place where I was proud of myself, and I felt very satisfied and good about where I was,” she said. “And so that’s why I started Allied. I wanted to give back and show others how CNA training is done.”
The purpose behind Allied Health Career Training is to accommodate the backgrounds of all CNA training students and create the best learning environment possible. “So many people come to us when they’re in situations where they don’t have the time or the money,” Powell said. “They sometimes have to work full-time, or they’ve got kids, or they’ve got other stuff going on. Life’s difficult for them, so I try to make the class as fast, focused, fun, and as affordable as possible.”
So what features of Allied Health Career Training make CNA training easier for its students?
- Low-cost classes
- Minimum time commitment (classes last less than a month)
- Money-back guarantee to students who fail to pass their CNA, CMA, or HHA state exam
- Sponsorship that ensures students never end up in debt after graduating
- Remote CNA training resources made available to students looking to continue their CNA training online from the comfort of their homes
- Free study sessions
15 Effective CNA Training Tips
Becoming a CNA can be a bit grueling. Not only do students have to complete their CNA training programs and pass a series of exams for official government certification, but they must be able to overcome the physical and psychological demands of the process.
For students beginning their CNA training, it is important to ensure that they are not only prepared but also comfortable in their own shoes (literally). Further, they must learn how to navigate complex relationships and build rapport with superiors and colleagues. In that regard, these fifteen tips from the CNA Training Institute are highly recommended:
- Carry a notebook: A small, easy-to-handle notebook is invaluable during CNA training. Notebooks can help in taking small short notes on the condition of a patient or resident, writing something insightful, or jotting down reminders.
- Ask questions: Students should learn as much as they can, and asking questions is one of the best ways to ensure that you do not miss any important information. By thoroughly understanding your learning material, you will be less likely to commit a medical error on actual patients or residents when the time comes. Hence, no matter how silly the question may seem, it’s probably not. Just ask.
- Get a fanny pack: Gloves, a pen, a marker, or other supplies are essentials during CNA training. A fanny pack is small enough not to be an inconvenience and will not be misplaced as it’s always on one’s waist.
- Carry medical scissors: This should be one of the supplies to be carried in one’s waist pack. Scissors can be needed unexpectedly.
- Carry extra gloves: Be sure that more than a pair of gloves in one’s waist pack.
- Ask a more experienced CNA for mentorship: Build connections with more experienced CNAs. They will be able to offer mentorship and practical tips.
- Begin conversations with patients and residents: Just asking how someone is doing can make your interaction more friendly and personal, thus making both parties comfortable with each other. Doing this regularly will make the job of the CNA easier, and the resident will feel more satisfied with the level of care provided.
- Let patients and residents feel like they have a choice: The feeling of independence is important amongst residents in skilled nursing facilities. For example, if it is time for a walk, but the resident refuses, ask them what they would like to do instead.
- Mind your health: You cannot deliver proper care to residents if you are not healthy yourself. So if you have a cold, it is better to call in sick than risk infecting the residents of a nursing home.
- Stay organized: Keeping a list of activities to be performed for the day is a great way to stay organized and not forget to perform care tasks.
- Always be open to learning: Look and learn from peers and from more experienced CNAs. Learning does not only happen during class hours. Maintain this attitude throughout the CNA training and maintain it even after the training has concluded.
- Develop a healthy working relationship with other nurses: Other nurses can impart their experiences and knowledge on caring for relationships. Form connections with them, as they could prove helpful during emergencies
- Be professional: Avoid office drama, gossip, or impoliteness.
- Be accountable for your actions: Own your successes and your failures as well. This builds trust and character.
- Wear comfortable shoes: Caring for patients and residents means CNAs are constantly on their feet. Comfortable shoes can help ease the discomfort of standing for a long time.
Summary of CNA Training
The current nursing shortage means that those who have completed their CNA training are in high demand in long term care. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that nursing assistants (CNAs) employment will grow by eight percent from 2020 to 2030, with about 192,800 projected openings each year.
By applying the CNA training tips outlined above, which speak to accountability and professionalism, CNAs who complete their training will find multiple opportunities to advance their careers by becoming RNs, clinical nurse specialists, or nurse practitioners.
For more on recent trends in long term care, read our blog and subscribe to the LTC Heroes podcast.