Are you interested in working in the medical field? Are you looking for a job that pays well and includes paid training? Do you like to help people? Do you want a physically demanding job, not sitting behind a desk all day? If you answered yes to any of those questions, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) may be right for you.
What Does a CNA Do, Where and When?
Certified Nursing Assistants work in a variety of settings helping people who struggle with basic personal daily needs, such as bathing. Some of the settings CNAs work in include:
- A client’s personal home
- Long-term care facilities and nursing homes
- Residential facilities for the handicapped
- Rehabilitation centers
The hours that a CNA works can vary. CNAs are needed 24/7, so you can work day shift or night shift. You will be required to work some weekends and holidays. Depending on the facility, shifts can be eight to 12 hours long.
What Is Involved in Hiring and Certification?
To be hired, you need a high school diploma and a demonstrated ability to physically meet the demands of the job.
Once you are hired, your employer will pay for you to go to classes and meet other requirements to get certified. You can work as a Nursing Assistant in a limited capacity as you work toward official certification. Certification requirements can vary from state to state. Generally, they include six to 12 weeks of classes in helping people with basic care, first aid training, CPR training, and a background check. Depending on where you work, you may also need a special driver’s license to be able to transport clients.
Have You Thought about Becoming a Nurse?
If you have thought about going into nursing, being a Certified Nursing Assistant gives you a front row seat to what an LPN or RN does every day. As the name suggests, CNAs often work under the direct supervision and direction of an LPN or RN. Some facilities will even help you pay for nursing school if you work as a CNA for them part time while in school and agree to stay with the facility after you graduate. I worked as a CNA for six years, and I had many co-workers who started as CNAs to help pay for nursing or medical school.
Working as a CNA will stretch you to your limits mentally, emotionally, and physically. It will make you all around a stronger person. Working with people so intimately teaches you patience and compassion. It is highly rewarding and you will develop a tight connection to the clients and your co-workers. They become like a second family. And you go through some pretty intense, once-in-a-lifetime experiences together.
Depending on what you do, you will witness people die, and you will witness people be born. You will see people fight against the odds to walk again. You will see medical conditions that your average person has only read about. One of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had was holding and comforting a 5-year-old as he had a grand mal seizure, carrying him to a safe place, and letting him know he was not alone.
You will need a good support system to work in this field. You’ll need time to prepare to work and to decompress afterwards. If you have children, you will need back-up childcare options. Many of your co-workers will also be parents, so they will be able to give recommendations and support on that front.
In many parts of the country, this is a field that is in high demand and high supply. On the bad side, that means some employers don’t treat their CNAs well. On the other hand, however, since they are in such high demand, you can have your choice of employers. If you don’t like one facility, you can find work easily at another. You can work with the population that touches your heart, be that the elderly, children, or people with mental disorders.
Being a CNA is a rewarding, well-paying job with opportunities for growth. I would encourage anyone looking for work to at least give it a try.
By Bethanie Ryan