Is being a Certified Nursing Assistant the right path for you?

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), also referred to as a Nursing Aide, provides health care and support to patients in a medical setting. CNA’s core responsibilities include offering basic physical assistance to patients, feeding patients according to certain dietary needs and recording vital signs.

Main responsibilities

“Oftentimes, people think our jobs consist of cleaning up after patients, but CNAs do so much more that others may not see behind the scenes,” says Candice Schafer, a Certified Nursing Assistant at St. Clair Health. Individual tasks may vary based on where a CNA works and the type of patient they are caring for, but primary responsibilities include:

  • Answering call buttons and alerting team members about emergencies
  • Monitoring patient needs and reporting any issues to other healthcare professionals
  • Assisting patients with their daily needs, such as eating, bathing, dressing, and using the restroom
  • Ensuring patient comfort by changing bedding, filling water containers, and positioning items so they are in reach
  • Repositioning patients in bed
  • Helping patients move from a bed to a chair or wheelchair and back
  • Assisting with lifting patients from their bed to examination tables, surgical tables, or stretchers

CNAs also work with medical technology, like billing software, health information software, and medical record charting software. Other duties may also include administering medications to patients or performing other specialized tasks, depending on their level of training, experience, and state requirements.

“If you’re a compassionate and gracious person who enjoys helping others, this role could be for you. Certified Nursing Assistants must be able to listen to patients’ concerns and ask questions to determine their needs. It’s also important to note that you have close contact with the patient’s family and caregiver, and this gives you the opportunity to develop personal relationships with all and make an impact on their daily lives,” says Candice.

Education and licensing

Working as a CNA can offer great benefits for individuals with a passion to help others. As a CNA, you won’t need to earn a college degree but you will need a high school diploma or a GED. In addition, proper training is required and during the educational courses you will learn about patient care and hands-on clinical training. Some educational requirements may differ by state, so it’s important to ensure that you take a state-approved program.

“The nice thing about becoming a CNA is that it’s a fast track to starting your career. With accelerated programs that help you with what you need to know, in a short period of time, you can begin your career within months and really begin to experience real-life scenarios and continue to grow and evolve over time,” says Candice.

If you have interest in learning more or growing in a specific area of care, earning specialty or advanced credentials is an option for a CNA. Once you become a CNA, you can continue taking additional certification courses that will boost your marketability in your job search and gives you an advantage over other potential candidates.

Advance in your career path

It’s not uncommon for CNAs to look toward a future of expanding their knowledge and climbing the career ladder. If you choose to look into other options above a CNA, you might consider a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) which is similar to a Registered Nurse (RN). LPNs are qualified to handle additional tasks compared to a CNA that include:

  • Recording patients’ vitals, such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse
  • Reporting patient status to RNs and doctors and adding it to patient charts
  • Changing wound dressings
  • Giving medications
  • Feeding and bathing patients
  • Following healthcare plans developed by an RN or a doctor

Candice mentions, “When I started my career as a CNA, I did not know what to expect. Your team of experts and the patients really make an impact on your day-to-day experience in this field and I can’t say enough about my exceptional team members at St. Clair that I have the opportunity to work with every day. If you’re thinking about a career as a CNA—talk to peers in the field and attempt to shadow a CNA to determine the right path for you.”