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Become a CNA

In this day and age of professionalism, many careers that years ago didn't require much experience now require not only formal training, but also some types of recognized certification. This is particularly true for many healthcare professions, including certified nursing assistants/nurse aide/CNA.

Prior to 1987, there were no standards in nursing homes and the quality of care was in question. As the public began to hear horror stories in the media about the abuse and mistreatment of residents in nursing homes, the government decided to step in and take action. The result was the Omnibus Budget and Reform Act (OBRA),which required the implementation of standards for nursing homes that receive federal funds such as Medicare or Medicaid. The act also emphasized residence's rights, registered nurse presents, in improved food and medical services for patients, along with better maintenance and housekeeping. Due to these new standards, states now individually regulate the training and testing of certified nursing assistants (CNA's).


Each state specifies the amount of training, and what certification and practical skills exams that certified nursing assistants (cna) must pass. Therefore, you will need to contact your state or local agencies to find out about the specific requirements in your state.

If you want to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), the first step is to contact your local community or state health agency to obtain certification requirements. You can find these agencies listed in the blue (government) pages of your phone book. You can also contact an employment agency or the healthcare facility you want to work for, since they will often be able to guide you through the training and certification requirements.

OBRA laws also require that a state registry be kept for certified nursing assistant (CNA). Information such as date of certification, reports of abuse and neglect, and lapse periods are available in these registries.


Healthcare facilities usually require certified nursing assistants to have a high school diploma or GED and to pass a state approved training program that consist of anywhere from 75 to 150 hours of training. You can be hired without being certified, but you must receive certification within four months after year hired date. The duties of a CNA very depending on the workplace, but the job emphasis is always on the physical and emotional well being of the resident. While it day in the life of a certified nursing assistant is not easy, especially when dealing with a difficult resident, most CNAs get great satisfaction from their work. Common characteristics for someone considering this profession are dedication, patience, reliability, and compassion. Another key element to the job is the ability to communicate and work well with others. A certified nursing assistant must also be physically able to perform the job, such as standing for a good portion of an eight hour day and lifting and moving objects and equipment. 

As a CNA. your training will consist of learning to perform the following basic duties:

  • Communicating with the resident and others on the job
  • Bathing and dressing the resident
  • Helping residents into and out of bed
  • Setting up and storing medical equipment
  • Taking vital signs such as pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration
  • Feeding the resident
  • Changing bed linens
  • Cleaning bedpans and measuring urine output
  • Answering residents calls and delivering messages


The certified nursing assistant profession, on the whole, is growing faster than average. CNA's held about 1.2 million jobs in 2004, and that number is expected to increased by over 25% by 2014. While job prospects are good, the salaries tend to be low. Hourly wages range from about $7-$14, depending on which part of the country you live in. Salaries in the Northeast are highest, while the South is lower paying. If you have five years of experience or more, you are paying may be increased by a few dollars per hour. Paid holidays, Hospital and medical benefits, extra pay for overtime, and pension plans are available to many hospital and some nursing home employees.

Once you know what you have to do to be certified in your state, you can begin to plan your CNA study program. Go to a local job counseling center, state employment agency, or private healthcare job placement service to get information about how to get the training you need to become a certified nursing assistant. Many health-care agencies will provide you with the training you need. Or you may be able to prepare on your own and simply go tin two demonstrate your competency by taking a written exam, demonstrating your skills in a practical exam, or about. Whether you are involved in a training class or working on your own, you should be using textbooks and other materials that will train you in the most important skills a CNA. needs. Such books will be available in public libraries and college bookstores.


Many states and local agencies require a written exam consisting of approximately 55 to 70 multiple-choice questions as part of the certification process. The written portion of the certified nursing assistant exam consists of multiple choice questions, while the clerical portion has the test taker performing three to five on the job skills. Some of the skills tests include:

  • Personal Care Skills - client bathing, grooming, dressing, toileting, skin care, nutrition, and more. 
  • Basic Nursing Skills - suggest providing a safe and clean environment, recognizing abnormal signs or symptoms of disease and conditions, communicating with the residents, understanding basic principles of infection and control, and more. 
  • Mental Health and Social Service Needs - such as psychosocial characteristics of populations, identification of developmental task associated with aging, behavior management, and more. 
  • Basic Restorative Devices - use of assistive devices, range of motion, client transfer, bowel and bladder training, and caring use of prosthetic devices. 
  • Residence Rights - such as privacy, grievances, resident and family group participation, physical and chemical restraints, personal the sessions, and more.

In order to help you prepare for your CNA test we offer three practice tests with 70 multiple-choice questions on each test. Each question will give you an idea of the kind of questions and the level of difficulty of the questions that you will find on your certified nursing assistant exam.
CNA State Agencies