Your Guide to CNA Jobs

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If you want to get a head start on the nursing profession and find out what it’s really like, you could get a job as a certified nursing assistant, or CNA.  A nursing assistant is essentially the direct care provider for the patients.  You will help patients with a variety of tasks, including toileting, feeding, and bathing.  Although it doesn’t sound very glamorous, you get to know your patients on an intimate level and can find a great deal of reward in truly helping someone.  There is nothing quite like providing a patient with the soothing comfort of a bath after they have been in a hospital for two weeks.

The advantages to becoming a CNA are the limited education requirements and the flexibility.  To become a certified nurses aide, you can take a course that lasts for only a few weeks.  Some of these courses are even offered online, but you will have to participate in clinicals on-site to pass the class.  You can choose to become a CNA for life with nothing more than a simple 4 to 8 week class.  You can also decide to move ahead in the nursing world.  Many Registered Nurses (RNs} and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) were nursing assistants themselves when they first started out.  The job provides for great experience, and it is often a springboard to bigger and better things.

Overview of Certified Nursing Assistant Jobs

Certified nursing assistants are used all through the medical hierarchy, and you can find CNA jobs in a wide variety of places.  The most common place to find a job is in a nursing home.  These facilities often run on a backbone of great nursing assistants who care about their jobs and want to make a difference in the life of a resident.  The next most obvious place is in an acute care hospital.  Although much of the more technical work is done by RNs in these facilities, CNAs are still called on to answer call lights, toilet patients, and perform simple tasks.  You can also find jobs in doctor’s offices, home health care agencies, and as a private contractor.

When you work in a certified nursing assistant job, you will be under the direct supervision of an RN or an LPN.  Usually, they will tell you what to do, and they are the people you report to when you have a problem.  You will be expected in this job to care for the patient’s activities of daily living.  You will help them turn in bed, take in fluids and food, and use the toilet.  You can either use a bedpan for toileting or help the patient to the bathroom.  You are also responsible for collecting vital signs and reporting abnormal values to the nurse.  You may be called on to feed patients who can’t feed themselves, answer call bells, and change linens on a patient’s bed.  A nursing assistant is much closer to the patient than a nurse, and often they notice small changes before the nurse ever would.

Building Your CNA Resume

CNA Resume

When you compile your resume for a CNA job, you should take a few things into consideration.  First, this is basically an entry-level position, so if you don’t have a great deal of experience in nursing, this will not necessarily harm you.  However, most facilities are looking for nursing assistants with experience, so if you have something like volunteer work, you should include it.  Make sure that you detail any previous experience, schooling, or pertinent personal information.  For instance, if you cared for your aunt when she was sick, this is important to mention because it emphasizes that you have experience caring for people, even if unpaid.

In general, you should make sure that your resume is as short as possible.  Consider it talking points for your interview, rather than an explanation of your qualifications.  Using a picture in resumes is currently all the rage, but it is not necessary to landing a job.  You shouldn’t put too much emphasis on your resume or pay someone to write one for you because the interview is the most important part of the hiring process.  Simply list your previous experience, education, and pertinent personal information for quick scanning by the human resources professional.

Landing Your First Job

Since interviewing is the most important aspect of starting your nursing career, you have to be prepared to give a great interview.  You will be working directly with people, so you should be open and friendly in the interview.  Answer all questions with honesty, and don’t try to come on too strong.  Most human resources people are looking for someone who can give great care and great customer service.  It is important to project an image of a calm, friendly demeanor.

Of course, some simple things come into play with the interview.  You should dress appropriately so that the interviewer knows that you have good judgment regarding your clothing.  You should arrive a few minutes early for the interview, because those who are chronically late are often a burden on the outgoing staff.  In general, you should be clean, well presented, and put your best foot forward.  Competition may be fierce for CNA positions, so you have to make a great first impression.

CNA Salary Expectations

It is difficult to pin down a CNA’s salary in generalities.  This is because the amount of money that you make is dependent on experience, facility, and region of the country.  According to, a nurses aide can expect to make $29,000 per year, but this is merely an average of the country’s CNAs.  You may earn less, but there is the possibility that you could earn more.  Those with more experience earn higher than this, and certified nursing assistants who work at nursing homes tend to have the better wages.  However, it is markedly higher than minimum wage, so it can be considered a high-paying job.

As a CNA, you gain valuable experience that will not only increase your economic compensation, but it will make you a better candidate for career advancement.  Many RNs and LPNs started off as CNAs and used that experience to land the higher paying jobs.  If you are interested in a career in nursing, or just like helping people, a position as a CNA may be the start you need.