University of Phoenix_ How Becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Can Pave the Way for a Nursing Career
When it comes to healthcare, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) fill an essential role, supporting the physicians and nurses who diagnose patients and administer care. CNAs work within various healthcare environments such as hospitals and long-term care facilities, and their typical responsibilities include tending to a patient’s food and hygiene needs and fetching supplies.
While CNAs are not nurses and have different levels of responsibility, many individuals choose to enter the healthcare industry as nursing assistants because this role offers entry-level work that, with the right qualifications and further education, could lead to future nursing careers.
Read on for an overview of nursing assistant work and how higher education, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at University of Phoenix, could prepare CNAs for more advanced roles in healthcare after obtaining a nursing license.
Why Become a CNA?
There are many reasons to pursue work as a certified nursing assistant. From gaining experience in the medical sector to making a difference to patient outcomes, here are four of the main motivating factors.
1. Entry-Level Job
As CNA work often requires only a high school diploma, it’s an attractive entry-level employment option for those leaving education without a healthcare-related qualification. CNA programs are generally shorter than a traditional degree, with some taking only four to six weeks to complete.
2. In-Demand Work
CNAs will likely continue to be healthcare professionals in for the next few years. Due to the needs of an aging population and increased demand for patient home care, projected figures according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that employment of nursing assistants could grow by 8 percent from 2020 to 2030, in line with the average for all occupations.
3. Gaining Experience
Work as a nursing assistant offers hands-on experience in a patient-facing role without the longer-term educational commitment of a nurse or physician. As the variety of responsibilities and care settings is so broad, CNA work is a great way to learn about different aspects of healthcare and the responsibilities of other roles. This experience could be invaluable when deciding on a later speciality or career path.
4. Making a Difference
CNAs can make a big impact on patients’ lives, fulfilling essential needs such as food, hygiene, and comfort. Nursing assistants often offer important emotional support systems for patients, especially those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities who see their CNA daily, usually more often than they see their physicians. This human connection provides an important benefit to patients’ health and can be emotionally rewarding for CNAs.
What Does CNA Work Involve?
Nursing assistants have many important, day-to-day responsibilities for patient care. These include:
- Feeding patients and monitoring food and drink intake
- Measuring patient basic vitals, such as blood pressure and temperature
- Wound dressing
- Cleaning patients and changing bedding
- Repositioning in bed or helping move patients in and out of wheelchairs
- Alerting nurses to emergencies
- Listening to patients and reporting information to nurses
CNAs work in almost every type of health care setting and with a wide range of potential patients such as:
- Infants or young children
- Elderly patients
- Cancer patients
- Combat veterans
- Those with developmental disabilities
How to Become a CNA
It’s important to remember that a CNA is not a nurse. The differences between a CNA and registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), or medical assistant (MA) lie in their training and responsibilities. Though they often work alongside RNs and LPNs, for the most part, CNAs do not need the same level of education or certification and do not require a degree in nursing, which makes this career an attractive option as an entry-level role in the medical sector.
Individuals hoping to become nursing assistants must pass a state-approved education program and the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) CNA certification exam, taken in written or oral format. Entering a CNA program usually has a minimum requirement of a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. Practical patient care training will generally take place on the job at the facility where the CNA finds employment.
Beyond CNA Work: Nursing Degrees
By contrast, becoming an RN involves completing an approved nursing program, gaining state licensure, and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Many nursing students may work as CNAs initially to gain hands-on experience in a health care setting that will help them progress in their medical careers.
An effective pathway to advanced nursing roles is through a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) after obtaining a nursing license. This undergraduate degree program can help RNs gain further knowledge and skills that could lead to advanced leadership roles. Online degree programs, like those that University of Phoenix offers, allow RNs to prepare for a new career after or alongside their nursing experience, helping students balance work, education and other commitments.
About University of Phoenix
University of Phoenix is dedicated to helping students navigate the career options and degree programs that best suit their interests. The University is also dedicated to advancing the educational aims of adult and nontraditional learners with degree programs that match with hundreds of in-demand career paths including in nursing, business and cybersecurity.
Thanks to online classes, flexible start dates, and numerous scholarship opportunities, it’s possible for anyone to earn the degree they need. Additionally, University of Phoenix’s Career Services for Life® commitment to active students and graduates provides the resources needed to be prepared when entering the workforce for no additional charge. These services include resume and interview support, career guidance, and education and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.phoenix.edu.