How to Become a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

Two Methods:Getting the JobBeing a Great CNA

CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) are professionals who help nurses by performing routine duties at hospitals and other care facilities. CNAs help bathe and clothe patients, check vital signs and other statistics like weight and height, and reposition patients who are unable to move themselves, among other responsibilities. Read the steps below to learn how to become a CNA, and how to be a good CNA when you get a job in the field.

Method 1
Getting the Job

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    Enter a training program. Becoming a CNA requires a high school diploma plus some additional college-level courses, in almost all cases. You can typically sign up for a CNA program through your local community college.
    • Prepare for a time commitment. CNA programs vary in length, but average between six weeks and five months of extra school. The special CNA classes you have to take are set up so that you can take them in a specific order.
      • CNA classes are divided between study sessions and hands-on practice sessions.
      • Because CNA programs usually end with a special certificate rather than a degree, electives are not required.
    • CNA programs can be competitive. Consider volunteering at a hospital or nursing home to boost your chances of acceptance.
      • Volunteering is also a good way to gauge whether or not you will enjoy being a CNA, as some of the duties you're likely to perform are similar to those a CNA performs.
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    Get certified. Usually, an accredited training program will take care of some of the legal details for you, but because CNAs are health professionals, additional certification and verification is required before you'll be able to work as a CNA.
    • File your fingerprints. Most states require health care and education system employees to submit fingerprints to be kept on file in case of criminal investigations. Chances are your CNA program helped you to do this already, but check to make sure.
    • Take the certification exam. Again, this may have been integrated into your training program, but if it isn't, you will need to find out when tests are and sign up for one. The knowledge you gained in your classes will help you pass the exam and earn your certificate.
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    Apply for work. Now that you're a fully-certified nursing assistant, it's time to get a job in the field. Prepare a resume and a cover letter, and begin looking for work.
    • Organize your resume. Write it so that your most impressive qualifications (such as your certification and related volunteer work) are near the top, and items that have less to do with being a CNA (such as unrelated jobs) are at the bottom.
    • Prepare a cover letter. Use your cover letter to put the information on your resume in context for potential employers. Always have a cover letter on hand in case you need one.
    • Look everywhere. Look for jobs in newspapers, online, and through word of mouth. Apply in person whenever you can; there is no substitute for a personal appearance.
    • Make a good impression. If you get an interview, show up well dressed and on time, speak clearly, make plenty of eye contact, and smile.

Method 2
Being a Great CNA

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    Follow the rules. This might sound absurdly simple, but more than one CNA has been let go for not doing things according to code. This includes technical problems, such as forgetting to do something repeatedly, as well as more serious violations like drug theft.
    • Don't steal from your workplace. Being a CNA is stressful and can seem thankless at times, but stealing prescription medications for recreational use or illicit sale isn't the right way to ease the pressure. Find other ways to relax and focus yourself instead.
    • Do whatever the nurse says. Do it with a smile and without complaint. You'll make a strong good impression on the nurse, who is probably also feeling harried and overworked. If something sounds unsafe, feel free to ask why you have been told to do it; otherwise, just do it.
    • Take pride in your work. Even though you're probably a ways down on the healthcare totem pole, you're doing an important and vital job that helps save lives. Treat your job like it matters, because it does. Do everything as well as you possibly can.
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    Be a good listener. Take the time to talk to patients when you are able. Be gracious and respectful. Remember, the people you're serving don't usually want to be where they are. Having a kind and polite person around who will listen to them makes a powerful positive impact.
    • If you have any free time, swing back by your patients and make small talk with them. They'll love you for it.
    • Always take patient concerns and questions seriously. If you can answer them, do so; if you're not sure, bring their worries to the nurse. In a busy ward, your attentiveness might help catch a developing problem before it gets serious.
    • Develop thick skin. Sometimes your patients will be bitter or miserable and looking for a person to take it out on. Just let them vent and stay polite. People who are scared and in pain rarely mean what they say when they lash out.
    • Pay attention to body language. People communicate their emotions through body language. If you stay sensitive to changes in body language, you can better guess how to speak with your patients each time you see them.
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    Be gentle. Speak clearly but softly, and approach your patients at a calm, measured pace. In nursing homes, where the people you take care of may be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, sudden movements and loud noises can cause severe agitation. Adopt a soft touch and keep things as pleasant as possible for your patients.
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    Be patient. Having patience is imperative. There may be times when you will have to repeat yourself multiple times when communicating with residents or patients due to an impairment. It is important to allow the resident to communicate at their own speed.
    • Be patient with your higher-ups as well. They may snap at you or forget to give you important information. If you remain patient, steady, and calm, they will usually catch themselves and stop treating you poorly.
    • Try creative communication methods. When trying to speak with a person suffering from Alzheimer's or another disease or condition that impairs communication, unusual approaches are sometimes required.
      • Try communicating using objects and body language instead of words, or by pointing and nodding at things.
      • Don't simply raise your voice as though the patient can't hear you. It's disrespectful and generally ineffective.
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    Learn to prioritize. There may be moments when several things need to be done at the same time. As in emergency medical treatment, it is important that you learn to triage them by immediate importance. Use your head and learn from experience which tasks are best done before the rest.
    • Don't rush your patients. Your time crunch isn't their fault; it's the schedule's. You can politely explain your situation, but don't put pressure on them to do anything faster than usual. It is unacceptable to cause them unnecessary stress or worry.
    • Never hesitate to ask for help. You may not always get it, but if you're feeling overwhelmed, it won't hurt to ask. You may find that there is another employee nearby who has a bit of free time and will be glad to split some of your workload with you for a little while.
    • Use your time wisely and productively. Downtime is precious, but unless you're on a lunch break, try offering to help out other CNAs instead or perform extra duties. Not only will this ease everyone else's load and make work go more smoothly, it will pay itself back later when you get swamped and other workers remember how you helped them out.

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