CNAs are paraprofessionals who provide assistance with patients’ basic health care needs under the direction of a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN) or other healthcare professionals. CNAs are also known as nursing aides, nursing assistants, nurse techs, patient care assistants, patient care technicians, and home health aides/assistants.
Extensive healthcare training is not required to become a CNA, however, CNAs often have a high level of training and experience. It’s important for CNAs to have strong interpersonal skills as well as manual dexterity to assist in patients’ needs.
More than half of nursing assistants are employed by nursing and residential care facilities. However, opportunities for CNAs are also available at hospitals, colleges, universities, home health care facilities, state government agencies and research and development services.
The job forecast for CNAs is very favorable. In general, job growth for nursing aides is estimated at approximately 28 percent for a 10-year period ending in 2016. Specifically, for home health aides, future growth is estimated at 49 percent, growing at the fastest pace of any health care profession. Because of its high rate of growth, home health care is included in the list of best medical professions.
Generally, most CNAs work in nursing and residential care facilities, with about 30 percent employed by hospitals. Due to the around-the-clock care patients need, CNAs may work a variety of shifts. Many work full-time hours with the possibility of overtime. With health care facilities open all day, CNAs may have to work evenings, weekends and sometimes holidays too.
While training to become a CNA isn’t extensive, the job carries a high level of physical and emotional stress for rather low pay. But, working as a CNA may lead to more fruitful careers in the medical field, such as nursing.
An average salary for a CNA is about $25,620. However, most start out making somewhat lower, with the lowest 10 percent earning about $18,300. Similar to most professions, CNAs can earn more through training and experience. The top 10 percent earn $35,000 or more, annually.
In 2012, the average per hour salary for a CNA was $12.32 an hour. The top 10 percent earn about $17 per hour, while the bottom 10 percent make approximately $9 an hour. For vacation time, CNAs receive about one week of vacation time per year.
In 2012, almost 1.5 million people were employed as CNAs.
The requirements to become a CNA are not extensive. Certification requirements can vary by location and employer. Normally, a minimum of 75 hours of training is required for CNAs who work in a medical facility. Certification may also be required for those who are employed by an agency or work as a home health aide. For most CNA jobs, applicants are required to have CPR/lifesaving certification.
Training to become a CNA is fairly easy and takes only a few weeks to complete. Many technical and vocational schools offer training, including health care trade schools.
It takes about 6-12 weeks to complete a CNA training program.