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
Fox Valley Technical College Appleton WI 6806
Gadsden State Community College Gadsden AL 4787
Gallia Jackson Vinton Joint Vocational School District Rio Grande OH 355
Gaston College Dallas NC 3954
Gateway Community College Phoenix AZ 7895
Gateway Technical College Kenosha WI 5741
Genesee Valley Boces - Practical Nursing Program Batavia NY 3292
George C Wallace State Community College - Selma Selma AL 1445
Glendale Career Schools Glendale CA 1128
Glendale Community College Glendale AZ 20091
Gogebic Community College Ironwood MI 1106
Goodwin College East Hartford CT 418
Great Rivers Vocational Technical School Mcgehee AR 182
Gretna Career College Gretna LA 124
Griffin Technical College Griffin GA 2689
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville GA 4814
H Councill Trenholm State Technical College Montgomery AL 663
Hacienda La Puente Unified School District - Adult Education City Of Industry CA 2030
Harrison Center for Career Education Washington DC 74
Harry M Ayers State Technical College Anniston AL 1112
Hawkeye Community College Waterloo IA 4263
Heart of Georgia Technical College Dublin GA 1068
Hi - Tech School of Miami Miami FL 177
Hrde - Stanley Technical Institute - Clarksburg Clarksburg WV 67
Hrde - Stanley Technical Institute - Parkersburg Parkersburg WV 11
Human Resources Development and Employment Triadelphia WV No Data
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
Illinois Eastern Community Colleges - Olney Central College Olney IL 1648
Illinois Valley Community College Oglesby IL 3794
Imperial Valley College Imperial CA 6775
Indian Capital Technology Center - Stilwell Stilwell OK 37
International Business College Lubbock TX 661
International Business School Midland TX 448
Itawamba Community College Fulton MS 3467
James Rumsey Technical Institute Martinsburg WV 144
John Wood Community College Quincy IL 2167
Johnson County Community College Overland Park KS 16383
Jones County Junior College Ellisville MS 4514
Kansas City Ks Area Technical School Kansas City KS 1730
Kaw Area Technical School Topeka KS 1013
Keiser Career College - Greenacres Greenacres FL 786
Kirtland Community College Roscommon MI 1307
Kishwaukee College Malta IL 3663
L E Fletcher Technical Community College Houma LA 950
Lafayette General Medical Center Sch of Health Sci Lafayette LA No Data
Lake Region State College Devils Lake ND 1219
Lake Technical Center Eustis FL 669
Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland WI 2742
Lanier Technical College Oakwood GA 1987
Lawson State Community College - Bessemer Campus Bessemer AL 1314
Lee County High Tech Center Central Fort Myers FL 874
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Lewis and Clark Community College Godfrey IL 6629
Lincoln College Lincoln IL 1010
Lincoln Land Community College Springfield IL 6789
Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology Naples FL 1607
Louisiana Technical College - Acadian Campus Crowley LA 254
Louisiana Technical College - Alexandria Campus Alexandria LA 300
Louisiana Technical College - Avoyelles Campus Cottonport LA 219
Louisiana Technical College - Bastrop Campus Bastrop LA 280
Louisiana Technical College - Charles B Coreil Campus Ville Platte LA 256
Louisiana Technical College - Delta - Ouachita Campus West Monroe LA 652
Louisiana Technical College - Evangeline Campus Saint Martinville LA 141
Louisiana Technical College - Florida Parishes Greensburg LA 120
Louisiana Technical College - Gulf Area Campus Abbeville LA 241
Louisiana Technical College - Hammond Area Campus Hammond LA 218
Louisiana Technical College - Huey P Long Campus Winnfield LA 90
Louisiana Technical College - Jefferson Campus Metairie LA 257
Louisiana Technical College - Jumonville Memorial New Roads LA 607
Louisiana Technical College - Lafayette Campus Lafayette LA 519
Louisiana Technical College - Lafourche Campus Thibodaux LA 482
Louisiana Technical College - Lamar Salter Campus Leesville LA 259
Louisiana Technical College - Mansfield Campus Mansfield LA 166
Louisiana Technical College - Morgan Smith Campus Jennings LA 126
Louisiana Technical College - Natchitoches Campus Natchitoches LA 345
Louisiana Technical College - North Central Campus Farmerville LA 196
Louisiana Technical College - Northeast La Campus Winnsboro LA 230
Louisiana Technical College - Oakdale Campus Oakdale LA 278
Louisiana Technical College - Sabine Valley Campus Many LA 173
Louisiana Technical College - Shelby Jackson Campus Ferriday LA 141
Louisiana Technical College - Sidney N Collier Campus New Orleans LA 890
Louisiana Technical College - Slidell Campus Slidell LA 531
Louisiana Technical College - Sullivian Campus Bogalusa LA 849
Louisiana Technical College - T H Harris Campus Opelousas LA 699
Louisiana Technical College - Tallulah Campus Tallulah LA 580
Louisiana Technical College - Teche Area Campus New Iberia LA 460
Louisiana Technical College - West Jefferson Campus Harvey LA 422
Louisiana Technical College - Young Memorial Campus Morgan City LA 1014
Lower Columbia College Longview WA 3248
Madison Area Technical College Madison WI 14474
Madison Local Schools - Madison Adult Education Mansfield OH 37
Madison Oneida Boces - Continuing Education Verona NY 652
Manatee Technical Institute Bradenton FL 2721
Marin Regional Occupational Program San Rafael CA 1039
Mcfatter Technical Center Davie FL 986
Mchenry County College Crystal Lake IL 5086
Medix Schools Smyrna GA 389
Medvance Institute - Houston Houston TX 85
Meridian Community College Meridian MS 3096
Merritt College Oakland CA 5975
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