CNA Education Requirements and Prerequisites

Certified nurse assistants, or CNAs, are trained to help with patient care in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities, usually under the supervision of licensed or registered nurses. Through a CNA education program, students learn to perform many different patient care tasks. Training programs also cover topics related to patients' rights and teach effective patient communication skills.

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Education Requirements for CNAs

Federal regulations require nursing assistants to complete a state-approved training program. After finishing a minimum of 75 hours of training, students must pass their respective state's certification exam before becoming certified nurse assistants.

Most CNA education programs are offered at community colleges, vocational schools and adult education centers. Some programs are run by hospitals or nursing homes that have been certified by the state to train nursing assistants. Daytime programs usually run about eight weeks; night and weekend programs usually take 13-14 weeks to complete.

Coursework in CNA programs typically consists of patient care training, lessons in basic medical procedures and human physiology courses. Students learn to perform different types of patient care tasks, such as bathing, feeding and basic grooming. Classes in medical procedures teach students how to check vital signs, monitor infections and manage bed sores. Students may also receive training in human anatomy, physical therapy and nutrition.

CNA education programs held in hospitals and nursing homes are often a combination of classroom work and on-the-job training under the supervision of medical staff members. Programs at academic institutions may also offer some form of hands-on training at local hospitals, nursing homes or extended care facilities.

Prerequisites for Training Programs

Most CNA programs require students to obtain a high school diploma or a GED before being admitted. Some programs prefer students who have had previous experience in providing adult healthcare, such as working as a hospital aide, candy striper or home healthcare worker.

After being accepted into an education program, students are required to pass a physical exam and often a background check as well. The physical exam determines if a student is capable of performing heavy lifting and is free of communicable diseases; many programs also include drug testing in the preliminary physical. Criminal background checks are performed for patient safety and protection.

Although it is not a prerequisite, many programs look for candidates who have certain personality traits. CNAs need to be patient, interested in caring for people and respectful of a person's privacy and dignity. Nursing assistants often work as members of a healthcare team and need to be dependable, have good communication skills and work well with others.

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