What you need to know about the CNA

Student taking the Certified Nursing Assistant Exam.

The Certified Nursing Assistant Examination is divided into two sections, the written examination (WE) and a clinical skills test (CST). You must successfully pass both sections to earn your CNA certification. In most areas you must pass the WE with a 70% or higher. In most areas you also must pass the CST portion with a 70% or higher, and also demonstrate that you can follow each critical step with 100% accuracy.

The written examination will be given on a computer and will be in a multiple-choice format similar to tests you have taken in the past. The clinical skills portion is broken down into “checkpoints” or skills that are preformed in front of a skills evaluator. Your demonstration of the skills does not have to be perfect, but you must show the portion of the step that is deemed critical, which usually involves personal or patient safety or infection control. You will be allowed to correct yourself if you miss a step during a particular skill until you have progressed to the next one.

What are the costs?

The cost to take the CNA test varies from state to state, but is not usually over $100.

What should I bring?

Two forms of identification are often required, and make sure at least one of them is a picture ID. All testing materials will be provided to you. Make sure you leave any personal items such as cell phones or calculators outside of the testing area. Also,depending on where you test, you may be required to bring someone with you who can serve as a “patient” who you can demonstrate your skills on.

What kind of job can I get?

The CNA is a vital member of the healthcare team who provides direct patient care to a variety of clients in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, or doctor’s offices. Nursing assistants, or technicians as they are called in some facilities, provide care under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).

Job responsibilities often include assisting patients with activities of daily living (ADL’s), such as bathing, eating, ambulation, and toileting. Nursing assistants are also responsible for obtaining patient vitals and reporting any changes in the patient’s condition to the nurse. A nursing assistant should have strong communication skills and be a dependable, responsible, honest, and caring individual.

Am I eligible?

In order to take the CNA exam you must first complete a CNA training course. Courses are run by the Red Cross in many areas, and some facilities also provide CNA training after a candidate is hired for a job. Much of the training is hands-on and so online courses are strongly discouraged. Before signing up for a course make sure it is considered approved by the state in which you reside or you may not be eligible to apply for your certification.

Why does it matter?

Certification shows that you are competent in your skills as a nursing assistant and are able to provide safe care within your scope of practice. It is a requirement of the job in many nursing homes and in certain healthcare systems.

What salary can I expect?

Although salary varies depending on your location and the setting in which you practice, the average annual salary of a CNA working in the U.S. is $27,000 USD.

When is it available?

Your CNA training class course instructor will help you schedule a time to take the test at a testing agency that administers the exam. Exams are given year around and you can usually pick a date and time that is convenient for you.

Time Allowed

The written exam time is usually about two hours. The clinical skills test portion is about 35-45 minutes and usually covers at least 5 skills.

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