The demand for CNAs is high. A CNA, also known as a certified nursing assistant or a certified long term care aide, has endless job possibilities. They can work as a physical therapy aide in a rehab setting, as an ER tech, at hospice, in a hospital, in a home health setting, or in a long-term care facility, assisted living or residential care facility.
To find out what people need to know before training to be a CNA, we spoke with Jeana Bateson, who is both an ADN-RN, one of Meridian’s Health Careers career training instructors and the instructor for Meridian’s 12-week CNA course. Here’s are three things she suggests potential students should know before getting started.
A certified nursing assistant needs to be dependable, have a good work ethic and enjoy caring for people. Patients depend on a CNA as their caretaker. Some of the many skills a CNA will learn include helping patients with mobility; turning or transferring a patient; personal care including bathing, shaving and denture care; standard health precautions like when to wear gloves for infection control; assisting with wound care and emergency care training. They care for and interact most closely and will be sharing with a nurse about the patient’s more specialized needs. Students can take the class as early as a junior in high school, with most facilities hiring starting at 18 years old. Bateson recommends shadowing a CNA or even volunteering at a hospital to develop an idea of what the job includes. The Nurse Journal shares 20 reasons to choose a career as a CNA.
Bateson often sees students enroll in the CNA course who are starting or preparing to start nursing school. Most nursing programs require students to have their CNA so they can start immediately with the nursing curriculum. The practical nursing program at Meridian requires CNA training and has several other course pre-requisites, and Bateson recommends students start one to two semesters before they hope to enroll. The second type of student who enrolls may be wrapping up their undergraduate degree at a university, planning to enter medical school and be seeking a health care foundation. The third type is students who need patient contact hours so they can get a job at the hospital and have those documented hours. The final type of student who enrolls, Bateson says, is someone who has a passion to care for the elderly. They may have had a family member who required care or observed a family member who works in the field. Many times a hospital or health care facility will reimburse employees who pursue their education as a CNA.
A CNA is on his or her feet helping patients a large majority of the day. The job can be physically demanding. You can learn more about the role of a CNA at the Occupational Information Network, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. The job also involves shiftwork, which means that a CNA will be on the job between 8 and 12 hours each day. In addition, many CNAs get their first job on the night shift. Because a CNA is a direct care provider for their patients, they may work holidays or weekends. CNAs are needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round. When it comes to caring for patients, emotionally, a CNA is often faced with end-of-life care, which can bring the unanticipated side of grief. This can also prove to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the career field because patients are not alone, Bateson says.
Want to become a CNA? Join us for the one of our upcoming CNA training series. Meridian also offers the written and skills tests CNAs will need for certification. Call 405.377.3333 with questions or register here. To find out about more courses like this sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. View all of our upcoming courses in our digital catalog.
Dana Wallace is the Executive Director of Communications and Marketing at Meridian Technology Center.