Doctors might get all the glory, but certified nursing assistants, also known as CNAs, shouldn't be overlooked either. They're the unsung heroes of medicine, the guardian angels of healthcare, and the ones who patients come into contact with first and last. You might want to join their ranks. The only thing stopping you is that one question at the back of your head: how long does it take to become a CNA?

The answer is likely to surprise you: most CNAs certify in just under three months. CNA courses consist of classroom instruction and hands-on experience. As such, you might spend four weeks poring over books and two weeks gaining confidence in a clinical setting.

Then, you'll take your exam. Before you know it, you'll be a certified CNA. The medical field will be your oyster.

How Long Does It Take to Become a CNA?

The answer to how long does it take to become a CNA depends on the state that you live in. Federal regulations stipulate at least 75 training hours, including 16 clinical hours. However, every state has unique requirements.

For example, to qualify as a CNA in the state of Washington, you'll need to:

  • Spend a minimum of 85 hours in a CNA program approved by the state
  • Pass the competency exam
  • Fill out a statement with your personal information including mental and physical status and any felony convictions
  • Undergo AIDS/HIV training

In general, those wondering as to how long does it take to become a CNA are advised to put aside six to eight weeks to complete their training and a further few weeks to acquire their license.

Nope, You Don't Need To Go To College!

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Not needing a college degree to enroll in a CNA course is what makes the answer to how long does it take to become a CNA so reasonable.

Instead, most courses will ask you to provide your high school diploma or GED equivalent.

In some cases, an entrance exam might be compulsory. Some courses also require prerequisites, such as CPR or First Aid knowledge. Furthermore, most schools run a criminal background check.

In most states, you'll need to be at least 18 years old to enroll in a CNA program. However, some states do allow 16-year-old persons to proceed with the program too.

Before you enroll in a CNA course, you must be free of any chemical dependencies or mental or medical conditions that might stand in the way of you performing your duties.

You're Spoiled By All The Training Options Available

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Becoming a CNA couldn't be easier. Community colleges, medical facilities, and online schools all offer training, as does the American Red Cross. In rare cases, medical centers might even hire untrained workers and train them on the job.

When choosing a CNA course, make sure that your state approves it and that the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission (NLNAC) accredits it.

As part of your training, you'll learn:

  • Basic nursing
  • Emergency techniques
  • Long-term care
  • Personal care
  • Taking vitals
  • Communication skills
  • Controlling infections

Most CNA programs cost between $ and $$, a pretty reasonable sum of money to acquire a medical profession.

Are You Ready For Your Exam?

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How quickly you apply for your CNA license after completing your training will also influence the answer to how long does it take to become a CNA.

To apply for your license, you'll need to fill in a form with personal information. Providing a complete set of fingerprints is also necessary for a thorough background check. If you're honest in your application, you won't run into any issues.

Next, it's time to take the CNA exam, which consists of two parts.

A multiple choice exam will test your book knowledge. CNA Plus Academy offers free CNA practice tests online.

On the other hand, a registered nurse will examine your practical skills. The skills portion of the exam is scenario-based and follows a logical progression.

For example, you might be asked to measure a patient's blood pressure and to change the patient's position in bed. You'll have around half an hour to an hour to demonstrate your clinical skills.

Your school will tell you all you need to know about the exam. Alternatively, you can check with your state board. Only when you pass your CNA examination will you become a qualified CNA and be listed on the state registry.

The cost of the examination varies by state. However, you'll spend additional money on registering with your state and getting proof of certification.

A CNA Is A Patient's Best Friend

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Knowing the answer to how long does it take to become a CNA is useless if you don't know what a CNA is.

CNAs, also known as Nursing Assistants, Nurse's Aids, and Patient Care Assistants (PCAs), are responsible for looking after their patients' general well being and health. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) or Registered Nurses (RNs) supervise these individuals.

Because CNAs have daily contact with their patients, they act as the LPNs or RNs eyes and ears. In fact, because CNAs know their patients so well, they are often the ones to notice small changes that go unnoticed by everyone else. Sometimes, these observations can save a patient's life.

Duties vary from patient to patient (and from state to state), but that doesn't mean that there's no way of knowing what to expect.

General CNA responsibilities include:

  • Recording vitals such as blood pressure and heart rate
  • Answering patients' call signals
  • Cleaning rooms and preparing them for admissions
  • Assisting with patients' physical needs (bathing, feeding, dressing and moving about)
  • Aiding doctors and nurses during medical procedures
  • Preparing medical equipment
  • Dressing wounds
  • Explaining medical information to patients

As a CNA, you'll have the option of working in a wide variety of settings, starting with personal homes and ending with hospitals. However, nursing homes are the highest employer.

Most CNA's aspire to find employment in a hospital setting. Hospitals offer fantastic benefits, well-trained staff, and higher starting pay. Unfortunately, this means that jobs at hospitals are hard to come by.

Let's Talk About Money

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Most CNAs go home every day knowing that they helped make the world a better place. It's an awesome feeling. But it's not enough.

Unfortunately, you can't pay your bills with compassion. Hence why you shouldn't overlook things such as average pay and career prospects when you're wondering as to how long does it take to become a CNA.

CNAs usually earn an hourly rate as opposed to a yearly salary which means that pay depends on whether you work full-time or part-time.

In general though, you can expect to make between $ to $$. Those who work full time also tend to get benefits such as medical insurance and paid holidays. As is the case with most jobs, more experience means higher pay.

It's pretty easy to find a job as a CNA, mostly because few people stay in this job forever.

You see, most people view a CNA qualification as a stepping stone in becoming an RN, Pediatric Nurse or an Occupation Therapy Assistant (OT assistant).

In some states, you can also undergo additional training classes and become known as CNA 2. In these states, CNA 1s tend to work in nursing homes and personal homes whereas CNA 2s work in hospitals. CNA 2s have more responsibility than CNA 1s, but at the same time, they also earn more.

If you decide that pursuing additional qualifications is not for you, your future is looking bright nonetheless. An aging population coupled with a rapid increase in chronic illnesses mean that employment is expected to rise by 11 percent (well above the national average) between now and 2026.

  Wait! I'll Have To Get Re-Certified?!

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Don't think that once you're certified, training is over for good! Every 24 months, CNAs need to re-certify. But don't worry: you won't have to undergo the whole training process again.

Instead, you'll have to spend at least 48 hours (12 hours a year) learning more about the ever-evolving healthcare topics such as patient rights and domestic violence.

Check in with your state board of nursing for acceptable training options that'll provide you with the necessary credits. Also, prepare to show proof of employment.

In many cases, employers pay for these courses or provide them themselves.

Fail to re-certify, and you'll have to pay a delinquency fee. Furthermore, in some cases, you might also have to re-take the certification exam.

It's Not Easy, but It's Worth It

Becoming a CNA is arguably one of the best ways to enter the field of health care. CNA courses are affordable, don't require a college degree and take only around three months to complete.

Furthermore, if you don't mind undertaking extra training, the career prospects are amazing. Of course, when you're researching as to how long does it take to become a CNA, you'll also come across plenty of disadvantages.

CNAs are often required to work weekends, nights and holidays. Their job is pretty demanding, both physically and mentally.

Whether or not it's worth it, is obviously up to you. CNAs don't earn as much money or as much respect as some of the other professionals in this field. But they're the ones who make all the difference when it comes to patients' comfort.

If you're looking for a realistic way to make the world a better place, becoming a CNA might be it.

Are you a CNA? If so, tell us about your job in the comments.