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What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently over 1.5 million Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in the United States. Certified Nursing Assistants, also called Certified Nurse Aides or CNAs, are frontline healthcare-industry workers, providing direct care to patients in hospitals, long-term care, clinics, and other healthcare settings.

The Role of a CNA

CNAs work under the direction or supervision of a Registered Nurse and perform a variety of tasks across almost all healthcare settings. In most settings, CNAs take vital signs, including height, weight, temperature, pulse, oxygen saturation, and respirations. Additionally, in acute or long-term care settings, CNAs provide varying levels of assistance with a myriad of activities of daily living, including:

  • dressing

  • bathing

  • eating and drinking

  • toileting

  • oral care

CNAs also function as a vital member of the life enrichment team, engaging in conversation with patients and residents, assisting them with hobbies and communication, and supporting their friends and family members when they visit.

In some settings like home healthcare, CNAs might help cook, clean, sort mail, run errands, or do laundry.

Advantages of Becoming a CNA

Millions of kind and caring people have become CNAs because the advantages are many:

  • CNAs make a difference in the world; their working is inherently meaningful, which drives engagement and a positive work experience

  • CNAs are always needed in big communities and small, in every healthcare setting and every geographic region

  • CNAs often have the ability to work more and earn more; many organizations offer incentives for picking up extra shifts and many CNAs have a “side gig” as a traveler or a moonlighter with another entity

  • Many healthcare entities offer a 12-hour shift for CNAs, which means they can work just three days a week and still meet status and qualify for benefits

  • The pay is great! Many CNAs make much more than they could in other professions with similar training, and the potential to earn more is almost always an option

CNA certification and experience can also be a great foundation for a future in healthcare; in fact, many nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and other healthcare professionals started their career as CNAs.

Outlook for CNAs

Outlook for CNAs is always good. In fact, demand for CNAs has always been high but has reached a peak in light of COVID-19. It takes more CNAs to care for patients when isolation measures must be followed, screening must be done at the door, and in some cases, patients are quarantined to their rooms.

The healthcare industry is recession-proof; despite the state of the economy, CNAs will play a key role in caring for our nation’s most vulnerable populations: the sick, the elderly, and the dying.

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