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A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is also known as: personal care attendant, personal care assistant, nurses aide, nurse assistant, clinical support associate, health care assistant and patient care technician.
What is the job description of a CNA?
A CNA is a trained professional who works in a variety of healthcare settings. A career very much in demand, these professionals work under the supervision of a registered nurse. Their role is critical to providing direct patient care.
They are also responsible for taking vital signs of the patient, changing bed clothes, organizing patients’ room, bathing, dressing of patient and feeding of the patient, among an array of other tasks.
In addition, they are also tasked to administer medications and treatments such as enemas, massages and suppositories. They maintain patient’s medical records on a regular basis but most importantly apart from taking care of the physical condition of the patient, they can also offer emotional support to both the patient and their loved ones. Essentially, their roles may differ from one medical facility to another. But their job description is more or less the same.
Here’s a video that goes into the day-to-day tasks that a CNA might carry out:
Could I live off a CNA salary?
The salary of a CNA provides for a comfortable lifestyle. For many the appealing factor is that years of formal education is not necessary to access this field. By completing a state-approved CNA program which lasts a number of months and obtaining certification, nursing assistants at the bottom 10% can expect to earn up to $18,790 and the top % earn up to $36,170 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics).
- Median Salary: $26,250
- Median Hourly: $12.62
- Entry-Level Education: Certificate
CNA Pay Difference by Location
According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015) the top paying states for this occupation are Alaska, New York, Nevada, Connecticut and District of Columbia (DC). CNA’s who work in these states earn an average salary of c. $30,940 to c. $37,180 a year.
- Alaska $37,180
- Nevada $33,000
- New York $32,470
- Connecticut $31,940
- D.C. $30,940
- National Average: $26,250
The industries with the highest level of employment for this occupation are the nursing care facilities followed by hospitals with an estimated employment of 616,550 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
CNA Pay Difference By Industry
The top paying industries for this position are the Federal Executive Branch (i.e. Government hospitals/clinics/schools), Insurance Carriers, Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools ( i.e. private, state, and local government schools). Wages range between $30,710 and up to $36,380.
- Federal Executive Branch $36,380
- Insurance Carriers $31,470
- Scientific R&D Services $31,250
- Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools $30,710
In terms of geographic profile, the state with the highest employment level is New York. It is followed by California, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania.
CNA ShortageBureau of Labor Statistics
CNA’s hiring is projected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022. This is despite cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Ample job opportunities lie in the home health care services and community based care settings as patients preference and government funding shifts.
CNA Training – What’s Involved?
All individuals who want to work as CNA’s must complete a state approved training course. The education of nursing assistants is under the jurisdiction of each state, guided by federal regulations. NATCEP (Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program) meets the requirements of OBRA and serves as a guide for registering and awarding credentials to nursing assistants.
The nursing assistant class must include a min. of 75 hours of theory and practice. Some states require 80 to 175 program hours in written oral and clinical skills in several areas:
- Basic nursing skills, including infection control
- Basic restorative services
- Mental health and social service needs
- Personal care skills
- Resident rights and good communication
- Safety and emergency care
Other rules that affect nursing assistant practice require:
- Successful completion of a competency evaluation program. Assistants who have completed the program have at least three opportunities to pass the state exam.
- Completion of a new program or retesting by nursing assistant who have not given nursing care for pay for a continuous 24-month period.
- Continuing education (12 to 24 hours per year, in some states).
Becoming familiar with the rules for nursing assistants practice in your state is important as well as your chosen place of work. Some employers for example also require you to complete a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPS) class. Other states still, require additional classes to learn about abuse of elderly and disabled persons.
To boost your CNA pay, use your CNA work experience and education as the baseline towards becoming a Registered Nurse, a Licensed Practical Nurse or a Certified Medical Assistant if you wish to continue on with your studies.
Just like registered nurses, certified nursing assistants’ job is physically demanding. Their typical day is spent standing and walking for many hours. They also face heavy workloads on a daily basis.
They should have a strong back as they may be required to move their patients into and out of bed. They may also interact with patients who are suffering with minor infections and major diseases, like hepatitis- during training you will be taught how to handle these situations and more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Office, the overall employment for this occupation is expected to grow by 21%. This means that you can expect more job opportunities in the future. If you genuinely care for people – then this career is for you as nursing assistants are special people, invaluable to a health care team.