CNA Clinicals: What to Expect

cna clinical

When you are applying for a CNA position, your CNA classes, or any CNA program in general, they will most likely have to have had (or do) some sort of clinical work to earn your CNA certification. This is an important part of the CNA education that gives students real-world experience before they graduate and take a position with a healthcare provider. Nurse assistant clinicals allow students to get hands-on experience with patients and learn what it is like to work alongside a nurse in a healthcare facility setting. This post will cover some of the details of what to expect during clinicals and provide a few tips for CNA clinicals.

Should you be nervous for clinicals?

While most CNAs are eager for this opportunity because they want to get started working as soon as possible, there may be others who are nervous about their upcoming clinical rotation. Either way it can be very nerve wracking when you first step foot into the hospital setting as a CNA. The best advice for CNA students is be prepared and don’t let your nerves get the best of you.

I have worked as a CNA in various hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities for about 3 years now. Throughout those experiences I have seen CNA students come into their clinicals with a lot of fear and anxiety because it’s a completely new environment that they are stepping into.

In my CNA classes we went through skills labs where we practiced moving patients from different positions to sitting up in bed (fowler’s position), getting out of bed, walking, etc. We also had lectures on how to properly lift patients or “dead lift”. There was also lab time dedicated towards CNA skills where we had CNA instructors watch us perform our CNA skills on dummies. So by the time clinicals rolled around I was more than prepared for anything that could be thrown at me.

What to expect on CNA clinical rotations?

Here is a list of what CNA students should expect during their CNA clinical rotation:

  • Different patients every day
  • Long hours
  • Learning new skills that you can apply in your future position as a CNA

If you do not have a supportive instructor then it may be difficult, but always remember to ask if you don’t understand something because no CNA certification class will prepare you 100% for everything, so it’s important to absorb as much information as you can.

Tips for CNA clinicals

One thing I recommend before going into your CNA clinical rotation is to get plenty of rest and eat healthy. I would even add exercise to this because it will give you more energy throughout the day and increase your confidence in doing your CNA work. If you go into class or clinicals feeling tired or like your mind isn’t working properly then it can be difficult to retain new knowledge and become overwhelmed easily because there may be a lot of information given at one time.

My CNA clinical rotation was six weeks long. The first week we did mostly assessments, patient care planning, and introduced different procedures that we would be doing during our CNA rotations such as CPR, trach care, NG tube insertion, etc.

If you are lucky enough to get CNA clinical rotations in a large facility such as a hospital then you will probably see at least two patients per day. You may also have CNA classes during this time where you work on your CNA skills and learn about different medical diagnoses or procedures that could be occurring with the patient that you are assigned to. At the end of my CNA clinical rotation we had CNA exams (check out these CNA practice tests!) which consisted of questions on topics such as:

  • What equipment would you use for weighing a patient?
  • What would you do if a patient has abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea?
  • Describe how to put an NG tube in place.

There were many more questions but those are just examples. We had to pass each CNA exam with a grade of 80% or higher, though this can vary by testing provider and your location.

After CNA clinicals were over I felt confident that I had enough knowledge and skills to work as a CNA. I also felt more comfortable and less nervous because it helped having experience and knowing what to expect before practicing on actual patients.

Requirements for Certified Nurse Assistant clinicals

  • Be of legal age (usually 18+)
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Complete CNA coursework, if needed
  • Pass a criminal background check and a drug screening
  • Have up to date immunizations
  • Pass a physical exam
  • Have the necessary attire and supplies like a watch, scrubs, and proper non-slip shoes with closed toes
  • CPR certification