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)

Registration

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

1
College of Dupage
Glen Ellyn, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 28862

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
2
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
3
Tarrant County College
Fort Worth, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 26868

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
4
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
5
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
6
Glendale Community College
Glendale, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 20091

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
7
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
8
Southwestern College
Chula Vista, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 17994

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
9
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
10
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
Southwestern Oregon Community College Coos Bay OR 3326
St Louis College of Health Careers Saint Louis MO 443
Stone Academy Waterbury CT 125
Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center Live Oak FL 88
Swainsboro Technical College Swainsboro GA 775
Tacoma Community College Tacoma WA 5302
Tarrant County College Fort Worth TX 26868
Taylor Technical Institute Perry FL 441
Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis Memphis TN 604
Tennessee Technology Center at Nashville Nashville TN 653
Tennessee Technology Center at Whiteville Whiteville TN 95
Texas Careers San Antonio TX 589
Texas State Technical College - Harlingen Harlingen TX 3265
Tidewater Tech Virginia Beach VA 251
Tom P Haney Technical Center Panama City FL 443
Traviss Career Center Lakeland FL 4380
Tri - Rivers Career Center Marion OH 65
Trident Technical College Charleston SC 10246
Trinidad State Junior College Trinidad CO 1921
Trinity Valley Community College Athens TX 4780
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
Tucson College Tucson AZ 175
Tulsa Technology Center - Peoria Tulsa OK 74
Uintah Basin Applied Technology Center Roosevelt UT 223
University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville Batesville AR 1024
University of Arkansas Community College - Hope Hope AR 1176
University of New Mexico - Gallup Campus Gallup NM 2594
Valdosta Technical College Valdosta GA 2049
Valley Career College El Cajon CA No Data
Vanguard Institute of Technology Pharr TX 505
Vantage Career Center Van Wert OH 945
Wake Technical Community College Raleigh NC 9654
Walla Walla Community College Walla Walla WA 4568
Washington - Holmes Technical Center Chipley FL 712
Waubonsee Community College Sugar Grove IL 7602
Waukesha County Technical College Pewaukee WI 7943
West Georgia Technical College Lagrange GA 1201
West Shore Community College Scottville MI 1273
West Valley Occupational Center Woodland Hills CA 5240
West Virginia Rehabilitation Center Institute WV 175
Western Nebraska Community College Scottsbluff NE 2264
Western Wisconsin Technical College La Crosse WI 4928
White Earth Tribal and Community College Mahnomen MN No Data
William Rainey Harper College Palatine IL 15021
Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College Shell Lake WI 3350
Withlacoochee Technical Institute Inverness FL 413
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