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What is a CNA?

Nurses are incredibly busy people at nearly any healthcare facility. To keep things running smoothly, CNAs play a critical role in helping execute day to day activities under a nurse’s supervision. You may be wondering what does CNA stand for? A “CNA nurse” is the shortened name for a certified nursing assistant. As you could probably guess, a CNA works under the direction of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN) at a wide variety of healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, long term care facilities, home health companies, hospitals, urgent care centers, medical clinics, government facilities, and more.

What is the CNA job description?

A simple search on a job board like Indeed or Monster will quickly make it clear to you that a CNA’s duties can change quite a bit from one facility to the next. Why? Well, the types of patients and the differing work environments largely contribute to this. For example, working at a nursing home will likely entail working with elderly people almost exclusively. At these locations, CNA job duties often include basic activities of daily living like feeding the patient, positioning them, assisting with personal hygiene, and following a patient or client’s care plan under the supervision of a nurse. 

When working at a medical center or a location with a wider range of patients, you may see very different CNA responsibilities. Tasks at these locations can include taking vital signs, answering patient calls, and in some cases CNAs may work with billing software and medical records software.

In any work environment, CNAs will be expected to comply with HIPAA responsibilities to protect patient privacy. They will also be expected to maintain their patients’ safety and wellbeing by following the policies and procedures set forth by their employer. To retain employment, a CNA will also need to maintain their license while keeping up on required continuing education courses. 

How to become a CNA

If the job description sounds like something you might be interested in one of your next questions is probably, “How long does it take to become a CNA?” Many people who’ve looked into how to become a nursing assistant are surprised that they can earn a certification in a matter of weeks with many CNA classes

Before enrolling in a class, there are some basic CNA requirements that a candidate must meet. While these can vary slightly from state to state, in general a CNA must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Proof of immunization
  • Negative TB test
  • Pass a drug test
  • Pass a physical exam

What does CNA instruction entail?

To become a CNA you’ll need to go through courses that require you to perform a set number of hours of supervised CNA training along with nursing classes. The number of hours of clinical education will vary depending on your state of residence. More and more state-approved programs are allowing the classroom portion of CNA instruction to move online, making it more accessible to students and cost effective for the providers. However, there is no “all-online” option, as the clinical training must be performed in person.

During your CNA clinical and classes you’ll learn a long list of skills including, but not limited to:

  • Communication skills (with patients and co-workers)
  • Patients’ rights
  • Ethics
  • Anatomy
  • Checking vital signs
  • Performing CPR
  • Medical terminology
  • Health and safety skills like using protective gear, and linen care
  • Resident care skills like bathing, hair care, and nutrition
  • Restorative care
  • Psychosocial care

It’s important that you thoroughly research the current requirements of your state and the provider of your CNA classes so you are properly prepared for your program. There are a variety of providers of CNA instruction in each state and their requirements may vary slightly. Check with your state’s registry for the most up to date details. 


How Much Do CNAs Make Annually?

Across the United States, the average annual salary for CNAs was $36,220, or an hourly wage of $17.41 per house. This data is according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2022 report. Top salaries across states range from $44,420 in Alaska down to $27,140 in Mississippi. 

Learn more about becoming a CNA