If you enjoy taking care of others, a career as a CNA may be for you. A CNA is a certified nurse's aide who works under a nurse's supervision. Aides provide basic care for patients and work in a variety of healthcare settings. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than half of all aides work in nursing homes and residential care facilities, but there are also opportunities in home health care and hospitals. BLS found the median pay for aides in 2010 was $11.54 an hour, and the bureau projects the number of nursing aide positions to grow by 20 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Helping in the Home
CNAs can be home health aides who work in a patient's home to provide basic medial care and assistance with the activities of daily living. Aides carry out the orders of a nurse who visits the home periodically. CNAs in the home must be able to work well with little supervision and have the physical strength to help patients with limited mobility. Home health aides provide total client care and help with meal preparation, basic housekeeping, personal grooming and monitoring vital signs. Some CNAs find home health care rewarding because of the opportunity to work one-on-one with a client and provide emotional support.
Assisting Others to Live Independantly
Assisted living communities may have CNA positions to help residents with activities they cannot do on their own, plus basic medical care. Patients in assisted living facilities have more freedom than those in long-term care, and aides are there to help residents be as independent as possible. Duties include assistance with bathing, dressing, light housekeeping and charting vital signs. Aides are also available to respond to call bells when a resident needs help.
Long-Term Care in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes have a number of CNA positions to help residents with long-term care. Many nursing home patients are completely dependent on aides for help with toileting, bathing and eating. Aides will also reposition and turn bedridden patients and transfer patients from beds to wheelchairs. They will measure vital signs and report concerns to nurses. CNAs in nursing homes are responsible for providing care for multiple patients at a time.
Clinical Work in Hospitals
Hospitals may hire CNAs to help during the intake process or carry out orders from nursing staff for admitted patients. Depending on training and experience, some CNAs may work in specific areas such as the emergency room, oncology unit or childbirth center. Working in a hospital setting gives CNAs valuable clinical experience in case they decide to become a licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse.
Becoming a CNA
Individual states issue licenses for CNAs. Most CNAs are high school graduates and enroll in a training course to prepare for the CNA certification exam in their state. You can take a CNA course at most trade schools or through the American Red Cross. Some nursing homes also provide CNA training to employees. The CNA certification exam consists of a written portion and a skills portion using a test patient. After earning your CNA, you will need to follow your state's requirements to keep your license active.
Sharon O'Neil has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published on various websites, including Walden University's Think+Up. She has worked in international business and is a licensed customs broker. She is currently a supervisor with a social service agency that works with families to prevent child abuse and neglect. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University.