Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, is a fast way to break into the nursing line of work. Like many people, you may be eager to become an officially licensed CNA so that you can start looking for work as quickly as possible. Fortunately, you don't have to wait long. By understanding the process involved in becoming a CNA, choosing the right CNA program, and staying motivated, you'll be looking for jobs before you know it.
1. Start Preparing in High School
If you're still in high school, get a jump-start on your future CNA schooling by taking as many healthcare classes as possible. These classes will familiarize you with basic medical and anatomical topics and give you some experience with the sometimes confusing terms that are used. Some high schools even offer special CNA or health aide educational classes, so register for some if they're available.
2. Obtain Your Diploma or GED
To register for a CNA program later, you will need a high school diploma or GED. If you're still in school, keep focused and continue until you have your diploma. If you didn't get your diploma, get your GED. Local community colleges should offer courses to assist you.
3. Complete a CNA Certification Program
A big determinant of how quickly you can become a CNA is how short or long your certification program is. These programs vary considerably in terms of duration. Some can be completed in as little as four weeks, while others take several months.
CNA programs are offered by hospitals, vocational schools, nursing homes, community colleges, and many other institutions. They typically consist of in-class instruction and a clinical externship, which is sometimes referred to simply as clinicals. Most programs require at least 75 hours of clinical practice, so be sure to take that into account while investigating programs. Sometimes, a program will be listed as taking six weeks, but that timeline doesn't include the extra clinical work that is required.
Don't let your eagerness to become a CNA make you rush through your schooling. You need to absorb the lessons and make the most of the clinicals. Remember that the schooling is designed to prepare you for your certification exam, so pay attention at all times.
A fast way to become a CNA is by choosing a program that lets you complete your classroom work and clinicals simultaneously. In other words, you might do a little of each on a single day instead of completing one section and then starting the next.
4. Take and Pass Your Certification Exam
CNA certification exams are administered by state-authorized vendors. Before starting your CNA program, find out when and where your state-approved vendor administers the exam. With any luck, you will complete your schooling right around the same time that the test is administered. These exams usually consist of a section of multiple-choice questions as well as a practical section in which you demonstrate your CNA skills on a patient or on someone who acts as a patient.
5. Obtain Your Certification and Apply for Jobs
After passing your CNA exam, you will be placed on your state's registry of approved nursing assistants. With that credential, you can officially apply for CNA jobs. All told, the process can be completed in as little as six to eight weeks. By starting now, you may be able to start applying for jobs in the next month or two.