How to Become a CNA Instructor

Research the requirements to become a CNA (certified nursing assistant) instructor. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in health care education.

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Do I Want to Be a CNA Instructor?

CNA (certified nursing assistant) instructors are registered nurses that are responsible for teaching certified nursing assistant training courses. Their primary duties include preparing lessons, evaluating students, and maintaining records. Common places of employment include community colleges, career training institutes, and private employers.

CNA instructors spend much of their working hours in academic settings, splitting their time between the classroom and an office. CNA instructors teach students and primarily focus their energies on the administrative duties associated with education in addition to hours spent in the classroom. Some CNA instructors are employed full-time by postsecondary schools, but others teach on a part-time basis in conjunction with nursing duties elsewhere.

Job Requirements

Most CNA instructors hold either an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. CNA instructors must be registered nurses, and most employers require them to have at least two years of on-the-job experience as an RN.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Associate or bachelor's degree is required*
Degree Field Nursing*
Licensure and Certification Certification as an RN is required, licensure requirements vary by state*
Experience Two years of experience as a registered nurse, one year of experience in a long-term care facility *
Key Skills Excellent communication skills, critical thinking, instructing others**
Additional Requirements Current basic life support (BLS) certification*

Source: *Job postings in June 2012, **O*Net Online.

Step 1: Attend Nursing School

All states require CNA instructors to hold a valid Registered Nurse (RN) credential. The two most common ways of achieving this are through a 2-year associate degree program in nursing or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. A nursing assistant certification may be required to enroll in either of these programs.

An associate degree program requires specific prerequisites in chemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology before entering the nursing program. Common areas of study in an associate or bachelor's degree program may include clinical nutrition, pharmacology foundations and individual and family wellness. Upon completion of either program, students will be eligible to take the state licensure exam in nursing.

Success Tips:

  • Take science-based courses in high school. Aspiring nurses should take chemistry, anatomy and physiology courses to prepare for a degree in nursing.
  • Complete a clinical experience. Students in a nursing program should take advantage of clinical experiences. This portion of the degree program allows students to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of an instructor.

Step 2: Acquire RN Licensure

Every state requires nurses to have graduated from an accredited nursing school and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to practice. Once the NCLEX-RN has been passed, nurses may use the RN designation. Other eligibility requirements vary by state; each state's board of nursing will have details on licensure. All CNA instructors' RN licensure must be unencumbered with no disciplinary actions on record or pending.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the exam. Individuals who plan on taking the NCLEX-RN exam should obtain any recommended reading materials or study guides.

Step 3: Gain On-the-Job Experience

All states require some minimum level of nursing experience for CNA instructors (generally two years). Some states also specify that CNA instructors have one or more years of experience caring for the elderly or chronically ill in a long-term care facility, such as a rehabilitation center or nursing home. Registered nurses may also gain work experience in doctor's offices, hospitals, schools, urgent care facilities and other locations.

Step 4: Complete the Train-the-Trainer Certification Course

Most states require a version of the Train-the-Trainer Certification course. This course is designed to meet federal requirements for CNA training programs and is specific to the state in which CNA instruction will be taught. Principles of adult learning are emphasized, as are the particulars of teaching special needs students. Depending on the state, Train-the-Trainer courses range from 15-25 hours in length and may be taught consecutively or on a series of weekends.

Step 5: Obtain Employment as a CNA Instructor

Jobs for CNA instructors can be found at local community colleges, municipal health departments, nursing care facilities and some high schools as well as vocational-technical centers.

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