Nurse Assistant / Aide

While many people are familiar with the concept of a registered nurse, the work of Certified Nurse Assistants, or CNAs, is less well-known. CNAs are classified as 'unlicensed assistive personnel,' as opposed to licensed medical care professionals like RNs. Primary care technician, orderly, caregiver, nursing aide and direct care worker are all names for the CNA.

Assistive personnel have become more common within the current structure of the U.S. healthcare system. According to California's Board of Registered Nursing, managed care models of delivery emphasize the role of 'universal caregivers,' "which has unlicensed individuals performing functions which heretofore required a license…in settings such as assisted living, adult day care, and home care."

What do nurse assistants do? On a given day, CNAs will help bathe and dress patients, assist them in the bathroom, mind food and nutrition intake, monitor medicines and measure vital signs. Much of the time, this is 'the dirty work' that nurses don't have time to take care of. Nevertheless, real human beings with sensitive health conditions and dignity to maintain rely on CNAs to monitor their situation and help them get along in a way that promotes health, safety and well-being.

CNAs work in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings, including assisted-living facilities, hospitals and clinics and, sometimes, acute care hospitals. In any setting, they need to be in good physical shape, maintain excellent communication with co-workers and superiors, and be responsive to multiple patients' needs at a time. Keep in mind that good stress management and 'people' skills will go a long way towards preventing burnout in this profession.

About Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs)


Just as a registered nurse, or RN, is "registered" with his or her official state nurse registry, certified nurse assistants are normally on their respective state registries. Every state in the US as well as the District of Columbia has a Nurse Aide Registry. To be clear, CNAs are trained, certified and registered - but not licensed. CNA programs must be accredited in the sense that they should be approved by the concerned state board.

The CNA Registry of a given state lists certified nurse assistants who meet both federal and state benchmarks through classroom training, clinical practice and due competency testing. In most states, prospective nurse assistants will have to undergo a criminal background check and garden-variety drug screening prior to practice. These tests are common and often required by law for healthcare workers.

In real clinical settings, there is often a gray area between unlicensed and licensed professionals' scopes of practice; overlap between the duties of CNAs and RNs is not unusual. Yet certain distinctions are sharply drawn. Only RNs, for instance, can perform and validate assessments, formulate nursing diagnoses, and design nursing plans of care.

If a task could potentially, if something were to go wrong, harm the patient - and that patient is medically fragile - the task is likely outside the scope of practice of a CNA. Where applicable, it is up to supervising RNs to make judgment calls concerning the scope of practice for a given task.

Educational Options for Nursing Assistants

Primary Certifications

Nurse assistants are certified by the states in which they practice. Upon the completion of a qualifying certification program, graduates may take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program competency exam administered by the state in which they wish to practice. It is this exam that empowers nurse assistants to provide care under the CNA title.

All CNAs must earn a Certificate of Training that serves as proof of satisfactory education before the state board or registry. Community colleges, vocational schools, or even the local Red Cross are good places to start looking for quality, affordable and state-approved CNA courses. Medical facilities frequently offer quality CNA coursework to the public. It's not uncommon for nursing homes and assisted-living settings to offer free CNA training that ends with a job at their facility.

An important part of any CNA program is the clinical practicum wherein trainees learn the ropes of direct patient care from an experienced worker-mentor. Usually this will take the form of supervised training in a state-approved medical setting. Different states have different requirements for the number of classroom hours and hands-on clinical training that must be completed. All states, however, require proof of certified nursing assistant training.

CNA certificate programs typically take between 6 and 12 weeks to complete. A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for both entry and later employment. In these programs, students learn fundamental nursing skills, anatomy and physiology 101, basic nutrition and best practices for infection control.

Associate and Bachelor Degrees

Some students choose to complete a CNA-to-RN career pathway. This track would be useful, for instance, to get to know the field of nursing a little bit better before committing. Those pursuing such a path would normally go on to earn either an associate's degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

The CNA-to-RN path is relevant only if a student eventually wants to become a nurse. There is no need to otherwise pursue a bachelor's degree to become a CNA. In most cases, it will not confer any particular advantage.

Secondary Certifications

A common specialization is the CNA-Medication Aide, or CNA-M. Nursing assistants complete coursework in this area to learn to administer certain noninjectable medications to anyone except very young children. Qualifying applicants must be in good standing with their state registries and have at least a year of full-time CNA employment. Many states require the successful completion of a standardized medication course to earn the title.

There are also secondary certifications available which are specific to special populations, such as the elderly. A Geriatric CNA certification would, for example, qualify the holder to work as an assistant in a nursing home for seniors. The coursework for geriatric aides focuses on segment-specific features such as dementia and Alzheimer's, long-term disability and self-care, and issues concerning death and dying.

We found 346 schools offering nursing assistant degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 346 Nurse Assistant / Aide Colleges in the U.S.

Nursing Assistant Schools By Total Enrollment

College of Dupage
Glen Ellyn, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 28862

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Tarrant County College
Fort Worth, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 26868

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Mesa Community College
Mesa, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 22821

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
De Anza College
Cupertino, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 22770

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Glendale Community College
Glendale, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 20091

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
El Paso Community College
El Paso, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 18001

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Southwestern College
Chula Vista, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 17994

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute
Albuquerque, NM  |  Total Enrollment: 17265

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
San Joaquin Delta College
Stockton, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 16973

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years

Browse All 346 Colleges With Nursing Assistant Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Valley Career College El Cajon CA No Data
Lafayette General Medical Center Sch of Health Sci Lafayette LA No Data
White Earth Tribal and Community College Mahnomen MN No Data
Nursing Assistant Training Institute Shoreline WA No Data
Human Resources Development and Employment Triadelphia WV No Data
Rochester Educ Opportunity Center Suny Brockport Rochester NY No Data
Hrde - Stanley Technical Institute - Parkersburg Parkersburg WV 11
Northwest Technology Center - Fairview Fairview OK 21
Opportunities Industrialization Center - North Central West Virginia Fairmont WV 36
Madison Local Schools - Madison Adult Education Mansfield OH 37
Indian Capital Technology Center - Stilwell Stilwell OK 37
Coral Ridge Nurses Assistant Training School Inc Fort Lauderdale FL 40
Domestic Health Care Institute Baton Rouge LA 42
Cattaraugus Allegany Boces - Practical Nursing Program Olean NY 43
Northwest Technology Center Alva OK 53
Beck Area Career Center - Red Bud Red Bud IL 58
Columbiana County Vocational School Lisbon OH 64
Tri - Rivers Career Center Marion OH 65
Hrde - Stanley Technical Institute - Clarksburg Clarksburg WV 67
Pima Medical Institute - Mesa Mesa AZ 71
Savant Training and Technology San Antonio TX 71
Dawn Training Centre Wilmington DE 72
Delta Career Institute Beaumont TX 72
Tulsa Technology Center - Peoria Tulsa OK 74
Harrison Center for Career Education Washington DC 74
Alexandria Cet Alexandria VA 77
Everest College - Merrillville Merrillville IN 85
Medvance Institute - Houston Houston TX 85
Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center Live Oak FL 88
Louisiana Technical College - Huey P Long Campus Winnfield LA 90
Central Maine Medical Center School of Nursing Lewiston ME 92
Tennessee Technology Center at Whiteville Whiteville TN 95
Adult Center for Education Zanesville OH 97
Douglas Education Center Monessen PA 100
Monongalia County Technical Education Center Morgantown WV 108
Antonelli Medical and Professional Institute Pottstown PA 110
Branford Hall Career Institute - Bohemia Campus Bohemia NY 118
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Louisiana Technical College - Florida Parishes Greensburg LA 120
Schuylkill Technology Centers Frackville PA 123
Gretna Career College Gretna LA 124
Stone Academy Waterbury CT 125
Louisiana Technical College - Morgan Smith Campus Jennings LA 126
Olympia Career Training Institute - Kalamazoo Kalamazoo MI 132
Arkansas Career Training Institute Hot Springs AR 139
Crowleys Ridge Technical Institute Forrest City AR 141
Louisiana Technical College - Evangeline Campus Saint Martinville LA 141
Louisiana Technical College - Shelby Jackson Campus Ferriday LA 141
James Rumsey Technical Institute Martinsburg WV 144
Pike County Joint Vocational School District Piketon OH 148
Altoona Area Vocational Technical School Altoona PA 154
Ascension College Gonzales LA 158
Putnam - Westchester Boces Practical Nursing Program Yorktown Heights NY 165
Louisiana Technical College - Mansfield Campus Mansfield LA 166
Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center Cape Girardeau MO 169
Cameron College New Orleans LA 170
Louisiana Technical College - Sabine Valley Campus Many LA 173
Tucson College Tucson AZ 175
West Virginia Rehabilitation Center Institute WV 175
Hi - Tech School of Miami Miami FL 177
Four - D College Colton CA 179
Pacific College Costa Mesa CA 180
Delta College Inc Covington LA 181
Great Rivers Vocational Technical School Mcgehee AR 182
Southwest Kansas Technical School Liberal KS 183
Connelley Technical Institute and Adult Educ Ctr Pittsburgh PA 191
Louisiana Technical College - North Central Campus Farmerville LA 196
Eastern School of Technology Virginia Beach VA 197
Computer Career Center El Paso TX 204
Alaska Vocational Technical Center Seward AK 210
Savannah River College Augusta GA 212
American Center for Technical Arts and Sciences Philadelphia PA 217
Louisiana Technical College - Hammond Area Campus Hammond LA 218
Louisiana Technical College - Avoyelles Campus Cottonport LA 219
Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center Roosevelt UT 223
Louisiana Technical College - Northeast La Campus Winnsboro LA 230
Louisiana Technical College - Gulf Area Campus Abbeville LA 241
Delta College of Arts & Technology Baton Rouge LA 249
Tidewater Tech Virginia Beach VA 251
Louisiana Technical College - Acadian Campus Crowley LA 254
Louisiana Technical College - Charles B Coreil Campus Ville Platte LA 256
Louisiana Technical College - Jefferson Campus Metairie LA 257
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord NC 259
Louisiana Technical College - Lamar Salter Campus Leesville LA 259
Cleveland Municipal School District Adult and Cont Cleveland OH 268
Louisiana Technical College - Oakdale Campus Oakdale LA 278
Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids Grand Rapids MI 279
South Texas Vocational Technical Institute - Brownsville Brownsville TX 279
Louisiana Technical College - Bastrop Campus Bastrop LA 280
Baptist Health System School of Health Professions San Antonio TX 282
Academy for Practical Nursing & Health Occupations West Palm Beach FL 287
Pima Medical Institute Denver CO 288
Eastern College of Health Vocations Little Rock AR 292
Louisiana Technical College - Alexandria Campus Alexandria LA 300
Bridgerland Applied Technology College Logan UT 304
Radford M Locklin Technical Center Milton FL 322
South Piedmont Community College Polkton NC 323
Davis Applied Technology College Kaysville UT 324
Akron Adult Vocational Services Akron OH 325
South Texas Vocational Technical Institute - Weslaco Weslaco TX 335
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