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Although Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA, jobs are entry-level positions, nursing assistants can gain experience in various specialty areas to move up the ladder. Sometimes, additional education is needed. Either way, adopting a specialization as a CNA is a great way to command higher pay and better benefits.
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CNAs can progress into many different roles as their careers unfold. Five particularly popular specializations include:
If you land a CNA job at a hospital, you may find yourself assisting in the cardiology department again and again. If so, you should consider becoming a cardiology aide. Your employer may require you to obtain additional knowledge. Down the line, you may want to pursue your associate or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to become an RN. From there, you can earn your certification in cardiology and be eligible for a wide array of jobs in this area.
CNAs who have a knack for working with kids often progress into roles as pediatric aides. They typically work in hospitals. Unlike their entry-level counterparts, they usually work strictly in the pediatric ward. This often means their patient workloads are less overwhelming. Also, thanks to their advanced expertise, they often earn more competitive pay and enjoy superior benefits. If you like kids and want to focus in this area, consider pursuing this path.
CNAs who specialize in working with elderly patients can take their pick from a dizzying array of jobs. This will only become truer as the baby boomer generation ages. It takes a special kind of person to be a geriatrics aide, as it often entails working with patients who are nearing the ends of their lives. Death is a routine occurrence in the geriatrics ward and in nursing homes, so you must be emotionally strong and extremely compassionate.
Perhaps the most challenging role for a CNA - or any healthcare worker - is working with mentally challenged and emotionally disturbed patients, who are often unpredictable and, in some cases, violent. Grueling and demanding though the work may be, it is also immensely rewarding to assist people who most of society would rather ignore. As a psychiatry aide, you will work closely with these patients and will be a strong advocate for them.
Home Care Aide
You don't need special certifications or other credentials to work with patients in their homes. However, as you develop more experience in this area, you can command higher pay and other benefits. Home care aide positions are highly coveted among CNAs because instead of working with dozens of patients per shift, you work with one at a time. In a single day, you may go and visit three or four maximum. This translates into an easier workday. Also, many CNAs prefer working outside of facilities like nursing homes and hospitals, and becoming a home care aide is a great way to go under such circumstances.
Even if you move into a specialty area as a CNA, there will be strict limitations on what you can do. If you'd really like to progress in your nursing career, you may want to eventually become an RN. With experience in one or more of the preceding specialty areas, the transition will be all the smoother.