After obtaining your CNA certification, you must protect your certified status to ensure that you can remain employed in the years to come. To ensure that CNAs maintain their skills, state licensing authorities require these professionals to renew their licenses on a regular basis. Although you won't need to worry about renewal for a couple of years, it is crucial to understand how the process works and to ensure that you apply for renewal in a timely manner.
Understand the Prerequisites
Do not wait until right before your CNA license expires to figure out what you will need to do. CNA license renewals are handled differently from state to state, so something that is required by one state may not be by another. If you are missing something that you need when the time comes, you risk having your license expire.
Common prerequisites for CNA license renewal include:
- Continuous employment - For CNA license renewal, most states require active CNAs to provide proof of having been continuously employed for a certain number of hours over a specified period of time. Note that if you haven't worked continuously, your license may be rendered null and void, which means that you must undergo the entire process again.
- Clean record - To renew your CNA license, you must not have any complaints or other marks on your record. Typically, if your record contains notes about disciplinary actions taken against you or about complaints that have been filed by patients, you must follow a different process for renewal.
- Pass a background check - When you originally applied for CNA licensure, you were required to undergo a criminal background check. Things can happen in the space of two years, and state licensing authorities like to check in at the time of renewal to confirm that your record is still clean. Therefore, expect to be asked to provide a fingerprint or other information so that a background check can be performed on you. Note that this is standard procedure.
- Continuing education - Although it is not required by all 50 states, there are states that require CNAs to complete a certain amount of continuing education to be eligible for certificate/license renewal. Fortunately, most licensing authorities clearly outline these requirements, and they can often be fulfilled simply by work experience or on-the-job training. Be aware of the minimum requirements well ahead of time. If they aren't met at time of renewal, you may be required to sit for the certification exam again. If you don't pass the exam, you may have to undergo CNA training again.
- Renewal fees - Just as you had to pay application fees back when you originally applied for your CNA license, you must pay fees to keep it going at the time of renewal. In most cases, renewal fees cost less than original application fees, and you can typically pay the fee at the time of applying for renewal. If you can renew online, you will have to provide a credit card to pay the fee. Note that if your license has recently expired, a late fee may also be due.
Complete and Submit a CNA License Renewal Application
Most state licensing authorities offer online CNA license renewals. You can easily find out if your state does by checking its licensing authority's website. If so, you should be eligible for online renewal as long as you don't need to update any of your information and as long as you don't have any complaints on your record. Otherwise, contact your licensing authority to request renewal. Note that in most cases, it takes two to three weeks for license renewals to be processed, so try to apply about a month ahead of time.
Provide Verification of Employment and Continuing Education
With any luck, you had the foresight to store all of your records pertaining to your employment and continuing education. If not, be sure to do so going forward. Along with your application, you will need to provide proof of having been continuously employed and of having completed your continuing education requirements. For employment verification, hold onto paystubs and anything else; employers go out of business, so it's crucial to keep these records yourself. For continuing education, save certifications and other documents regarding this in a safe place.
Pay Your Renewal Fees
Your CNA renewal application will not be processed unless you submit payment of any required or outstanding fees along with it. Check ahead of time so that you know how much you will have to pay. That way, you can budget accordingly. Fees tend to be minimal, but they can add up if you are facing late charges or expiration fees.
Know What to Do if You Can't Renew Your CNA License
Most of the time, renewing a CNA license is simple and easy. If you are unable to renew yours for some reason, make sure that you know your available options for reinstating it. If your license only expired recently, you most likely just have to pay a late fee. If it can't be renewed due to complaints on your record or because you haven't met work or continuing education requirements, you may face more of an uphill battle. In the worst-case scenario, you may have to go back and complete your CNA training again along with sitting for the exam and applying for your license. Sometimes, however, you can just take the exam again.
As you can see, while renewing a CNA license is typically easy, those who don't prepare ahead of time can face bigger challenges. With that in mind, mark a date at least a month before expiration on your calendar, and make sure to initiate the renewal process in a timely manner to avoid problems.