How to Become a CNA: Certified Nursing Assistant

There are two primary ways to become a CNA (certified nursing assistant also know as certified nursing aide):

  1. Training through a clinical facility (hospital, rehab, or long term care)
  2. Going to school.

Which avenue to choose depends on several factors:

  • The level of training desired
  • Where you want to work
  • Time, and
  • Money

Both avenues involve classroom and clinical training followed by taking the certification test through the State Board of Nursing.

Facility Based CNA Training

Receiving you certified nursing assistant training through a clinical facility requires that one find a facility that offers its own training. You can find this information here on our website (on the state approved CNA training programs section), or in a classified ad, or by simply calling around to various local facilities to find out who has such a training program.

There are several advantages to being trained by a clinical facility:

  • You get free training,
  • A guaranteed job after training, and
  • Exposure to actual patients and real-world situations.

Also, trainees are often allowed so many days or weeks to work before taking the CNA certification test. That way one is getting paid while gaining more exposure to an actual clinical setting, resulting in a higher level of confidence in one’s skills and comfort taking the test.

Usually if a CNA student is trained by a clinical facility, the trainee incurs a commitment to work at that facility for a specified amount of time in order to “repay” the free training that they give you. This doesn’t cost money, simply time and commitment, and the trainee is also making a paycheck while training.

Many clinical settings are doing away with their own certified nurse assistant training, so it can be difficult to find such a venue. If one can find the right venue, the prospective CNA will be trained according to the specific needs of the clinic, so it may be necessary to do some outside research and study before taking the CNA certification exam to ensure that one is completely on target with the State Board exam. Also, the fees for the exam may or may not be paid by the facility as part of the training.

If one fulfills his or her employment requirement after training and decides then to move on to another facility, one has gained not only the necessary certification, but also the practical experience which will likely be valued by the future employer.

School Based CNA Training

Most CNA school based trainings are geared specifically towards the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare the trainee for the State Board of Nursing exam for nursing assistant certification. Schools vary greatly in their training methods, so it is important for the prospective CNA to know in advance what the State requirements are and to find out what the school provides. This can be ascertained by asking to speak with the instructor(s), or by looking at the school syllabus and talking to graduates. Also, the school tuition often covers the cost of the certification exam.

Schools often will help the CNA find work after successful completion of their program and passing of the certification exam.

The Certified Nursing Assistant Exam

Certification testing for the Nursing Assistant consists of both a knowledge test and a practical skills test. The State Board of Nursing wants to know that the trainee not only knows intellectually what is required, but also wants to be shown that the trainee can actually perform the required skills. Observation, proper body mechanics, and proper procedure are things best demonstrated by doing.

Prospective CNAs can request a copy of the specific testing requirements from their State Board. No matter how prepared one believes he or she is, it is always nice to see the actual requirements so there are few or surprises on testing day. This list also gives one the opportunity to go over the requirements and perform his or her own self-test before attempting the examination.