What are Certified Nursing Assistants?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) work as assistants to nurses. They are directly involved in certain aspects of patient care, like changing soiled bedding, or talking to patients. Most frequently, certified nursing assistants can be found in doctors’ offices or in long-term care facilities. In these capacities, certified nursing assistants report relevant information to registered nurses (RNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs). In a small doctor’s office, certified nursing assistants may report directly to a physician.

Some certified nurses who have phlebotomy training work in labs, where their main duty is to draw blood from patients.
Some certified nurses who have phlebotomy training work in labs, where their main duty is to draw blood from patients.

In long-term care facilities or hospices, certified nursing assistants might be most involved in watching patients and checking for potential problems. Since most CNAs do not perform medical procedures like administering medication, their primary goal is to communicate problems to supervising RNs or LVNs.

In an emergency setting certified nursing assistants can be of great help. All CNAs are trained in CPR, and can call a code blue if a patient’s heart or breathing has stopped. While waiting for doctors and nurses to arrive, CNAs can begin CPR.

Most often, certified nursing assistants get to know patients in long-term facilities better than the nurses do. They can then report altered states of mood to nurses, or help patients handle hospitalization better. They cannot give information about the patient’s medical condition to the patient, since they cannot diagnose conditions.

CNAs may also perform other duties, depending on their training and level of experience. Those who have phlebotomy training can draw blood for blood tests. In fact some certified nursing assistants work at labs for this purpose.

Training for certified nursing assistants is varied. Some require only on the job training, while in other states, one may have to take some classes before becoming certified. Frequently, to receive certification, CNAs must take a practical examination.

Certified nursing assistants do not make a lot of money. Starting salaries may be little more than minimum wage. In larger cities CNAS make a median salary of about 2000 US dollars (USD) per month. In rural areas, this figure drops to about 1800 USD per month. Often CNAs decide to complete training as an LVN or RN to significantly boost their salary.

Like most certified employees, CNAs may need to take occasional continuing education courses to maintain certification. Often classes are offered through employers to cut down on costs, since the CNA has little extra to spend on additional classes.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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