A certified nursing assistant, or CNA, is someone who completes routine tasks and provides basic patient care under the supervision of medical staff and nurses. Responsibilities may include helping a patient dress, eat, or bathe. CNAs may also serve meals, change linens, and monitor a patient’s vital signs. Usually, a CNA will work in a hospital or residential setting, such as a nursing home, but they may also be employed by home health companies to give in-home care to patients.
The first step in becoming a certified nursing assistant is training. Federal guidelines require 75 hours of approved courses. Courses cover a variety of subjects including nutrition, body mechanics, anatomy and physiology, communication, infection control, personal care skills, and patient’s rights. These classes are often offered in community colleges, and vocation centers. Some high schools and nursing facilities also offer courses for CNAs. Remember, however, that the 75 hours is a federal minimum, and that individual states may require many more hours. Therefore, you should always contact the board in the state you are interested in working in to make sure the classes you are planning to take will be adequate.
Once you have completed the program you will have to pass a state competency evaluation. The most common form of evaluation is the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program, or the NNAAP. This is the test administered in 23 states and one territory. There are two parts to this test, oral and written, and the test is offered in both English and Spanish. Other states have their own certification test, but it will be similar. Before you can be added to your state’s nurse aide registry, you must pass the competency evaluation.
What if you fail the test?
Fortunately, even if you do fail the test, you will be given other opportunities to pass. Usually, a candidate has three chances to pass the certification test within two years of completing their training. If you fail the test three consecutive times, you may have to reenter a training program before you will be allowed to test again. However, it is rare that a candidate would fail the test three times. Remember that all of your training was to prepare you to become a CNA, and that these are the skills you are being tested on. Try not to become nervous just because it is a test. Even if you fail it the first time, consider it a learning experience. You now know what to expect and it won’t be as scary the next time.
Are you a CNA? What was the testing experience like for you? Did you feel your training had prepared you adequately for the test?