What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?
As the title suggests, a certified nursing assistant, or CNA, serves as an assistant to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and other nursing and health care professionals. Entry-level professionals, CNAs, which are also known as nurse aides and nurse’s assistants, provide basic, day-to-day care for patients in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living centers and other health care facilities. Because minimal training is required and demand is high, this is a very popular profession and one that many use as a springboard into a long, rewarding career in nursing.
CNAs juggle a variety of responsibilities, and their days are filled with non-stop action. The precise nature of their duties varies depending on where they work. A CNA working in a hospital is likely to have a completely different workday than one who works in a nursing home. Regardless of work environment, however, all CNAs act as assistants to nurses, including RNs and LPNs. They generally work more closely with patients than any other health care professionals, and they report crucial information regarding patients to senior nurses. Most CNAs would agree that their work is demanding but rewarding.
How Popular is the CNA Profession?
Certified nurse assisting has been and continues to be an immensely popular line of work. It’s easy enough to see why when you consider a few things. First, becoming a CNA is generally quick and easy. Unlike becoming an RN or even an LPN, the training is very brief. Most CNA training programs run 12 to 16 weeks. Upon finishing, you can immediately take your certification exam, earn your license and start applying for jobs. Speaking of jobs, they are plentiful, and the field is expected grow ever more in the years to come. Although they’re entry-level workers, CNAs earn well above minimum wage and typically enjoy excellent benefits.
A Flexible Profession
Another reason aspiring nurses often begin as CNAs is because of the flexibility the profession offers. Although many CNAs work in nursing homes and assisted living centers, they’re also hired by clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and many other facilities. Additionally, many CNAs work in patients’ homes. Certified nursing assistants typically work full time, but many employers offer part-time positions as well. There’s also great flexibility in terms of scheduling. CNAs can opt to work night shifts or day shifts. Some work strictly during the week while others work weekends. Regardless of your scheduling needs, you’re sure to find this profession a perfect fit for you.
Advancement Opportunities and Career Paths
While many CNAs stick with the profession throughout their careers, many use it as a starting point toward loftier goals. For example, if you aspire to eventually be a registered nurse but need to start earning a steady paycheck quickly, becoming a CNA makes sense as it allows you to do so while gaining relevant work experience. Many CNAs move into areas of specialization that help them command higher pay. Others still not only move into registered nursing but progress into advanced degrees and into advanced roles as nurse practitioners, researchers, administrators and more.
Should You Become a CNA?
If you are interested in the nursing field, becoming a CNA is a great way to see what it’s like. Training is fast and affordable, and it’s easy to find work. As a CNA, you can see for yourself whether nursing is something you’d like to pursue as a lifelong career while gaining all kinds of relevant work experience. The work isn’t easy, but it is necessary and rewarding.