Getting Started With CNA classes

CNA classes, in general, are less intensive than those required to become a registered nurse. They can be taken the usual way—through higher education—or through some emergency organization, of which the Red Cross is the most notable. Both sources of training will be discussed in the following sections.

 What is a CNA?

A certified nurse assistant (CNA) is somebody who has considerably less knowledge and training than a registered nurse (or licensed professional nurse—the legal term varies somewhat from one jurisdiction to another), who performs tasks like caring for the sick in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities under the supervision of such a professional. She (or he—females are more common than males here) belongs to a category of employees called unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP). By assisting in the relatively minor tasks, these workers free nurses for jobs that require the skills that only the latter have.

•Entry requirements

The candidate who wishes to pursue a career as a CNA must meet certain educational and personal requirements. She must have at least a high school diploma and have basic reading and writing skills in English, plus basic mathematical skills. Certain personal criteria and responsibilities need to be met as well, like compassion, caring, a desire to help people and an ability and willingness to work as a team member.

Where to take CNA classes

 To find where CNA courses are being taught near you, go online and search some of the respected resources. Many institutions today also offer competent online CNA classes as well. You can check them out from the convenience of your home and decide if they meet your requirements.

Some of the available options are discussed below:

In High school

There are classes to become a CNA  that you can take while in high school—colleges often allow such students to take their courses. Guidance counselors can provide more information.

At Community colleges

Among the top rated CNA courses in the US are those at Waubonsee College in Aurora, Illinois, which provides them at three of its campuses. The sole course is Basic Nurse Assistant Training, approved by the state Department of Health, which teaches the basic procedures in nursing as well as:

-body mechanics
-communication skills

-caring for dementia patients

All students who take these classes are tested for tuberculosis on the first day.

Undergraduate and graduate classes

All college and university CNA training classes have two components—one in the classroom and one in a clinic that gives “hands-on” experience with activities like taking patients’ vital signs, under the supervision of senior nursing personnel.

Alaska’s Institute of Technology has designed a CNA program to meet the high demand for trained nursing assistants in this thinly-populated state (see Benefits, below). Two classes are operated at the same time, one in the classroom and one in the clinic. Together they take 230 hours, or eight weeks. Classroom and laboratory skills are taught during the first four weeks; students are not required to take the half-hour skills practice session that comes after each class, but it is recommended that they do so. Over the next four weeks students are taught how to take care of the elderly in nursing homes, increasing the number of patients they care for from one during the first week to three during the last. Time management and organizational skills are also covered.

At the Red Cross

The Red Cross offers classes in several subjects, including one for the training of CNAs, which are taught at various services centers throughout the nation. Their classes and training course is taught at the center in San Rafael, California, and takes a total of 160 hours divided into two components—60 hours of classroom and laboratory work and 100 hours of supervised training at some clinic. Teachers train students how to perform such tasks as taking patients’ blood pressure, pulse and temperature, and recording them, and helping them with their daily living needs, such as bathing, cleaning themselves, getting dressed and going to the bathroom.

To apply for the course, fill out the form available at the Red Cross website.

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Planning For CNA classes

The average cost of CNA classes ranges from $1,300 in California to $2000 in Florida. So there is a great demand for these courses especially if you want to get the training for free.

So start planning early and contact the CNA classes that interest you as soon as you know where you would like to go. This will give you a head start to prepare for the courses mentally and financially. By starting sooner rather than later, you can also take advantage of any financial aid on offer as they tend to get allocated well in advance.

CNA Salaries and Career Prospects

After completing all her CNA classes and coursework, the student takes the Certified Nurse Assistant examination. She must pass this examination in order to receive her license. Each state has its own version of the test, which deals with knowledge and skills. Employment opportunities for CNAs include entry level jobs in hospitals, clinics and physicians’ offices.

The job of a CNA is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, and the demand for such workers and their salaries continues to expand along with the population. In fact, some experts predict that the career opportunities will actually expand faster than the population. The five states in which the wages for CNA are highest are Alaska ($34,210), Nevada, New York, Hawaii and Connecticut ($30,590). These are all states in which either the population is low, resulting in a shortage of skilled personnel (as is the case with Alaska), or the people are among the wealthiest in the nation, and consequently are willing to pay higher premiums (as in Connecticut). The number of jobs is especially high in the area from Massachusetts south to Virginia.

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The CNA career as a stepping stone

The person who works as a CNA can gain the kind of experience necessary for a more rewarding and better paying position. She may continue her nursing education and receive a license to practice as a registered nurse, or she may become a medical assistant, a phlebotomy technician or a massage therapist. Having experience with a lower level job can often help in getting the education that prepares one for a higher level one. As CNAs continue to be in high demand, likewise the need of universities and organizations to offer CNA classes will continue to increase.