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Nursing Assistant (CNA) Career Guide

Are you someone who is naturally caring, compassionate and gentle? Do you fancy a career supporting and helping others?

If yes, then we think you may love a career as a nursing assistant!

Nursing assistants is responsible for providing basic care to patients. They greatly take the strain of other medical professionals, and improve the quality of their patients lives, by performing duties such as cleaning patients, dressing patients, helping patients use the toilet, reporting any health concerns or issues to to nurses and measuring the patients’ vitals.

To become a nursing assistant, you will need to complete a state-approved education program, which are  available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

A certified nursing assistant career is rewarding for compassionate individuals who enjoy caring for people. The job may be demanding, but you can derive a sense of satisfaction from helping patients feel comfortable and loved. Because CNAs spend a lot of time with patients, they have the opportunity to develop close relationships, particularly with those individuals who need long-term care.

Tina Amo

Nursing Assistant (CNA) Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Nursing Assistant (CNA) Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Nursing Assistant (CNA) field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33834 Certified Nursing Assistant Female 24 $25,000 Elwood, IN 01/01/2010
33657 Cna Female 40 $31,000 falls creek, PA 01/01/2010
33670 Cna Female 39 $28,000 Surprise, NY 01/01/2010
33648 Cna Female 43 $57,000 TAUNTON, MA 01/01/2010
33632 Cna Female 34 $25,000 Hemlock, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a nursing assistant does

Nursing assistants, or sometimes called ‘nursing aides’, provide basic care and help to patients. They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, adult care centers, private residences, and assisted living facilities to help patients with activities of daily living.

Often, nursing assistants serve as an essential intermediary between registered nurses and their patients. They having duties and tasks such as:

  • Cleaning and bathing patients
  • Helping patients use the toilet
  • Dressing patients if necessary
  • Turning, repositioning, and transferring patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listening to and recording patients’ health concerns
  • Reporting any health concerns or issues to to nurses
  • Measuring each patients’ vital signs (e.g., blood pressure and temperature)
  • Serving meals and help patients to eat

Why they are needed

Nursing assistants serve as an essential intermediary between registered nurses and their patients. They take the pressure of nurses by monitoring medical charts and reporting that vital information back to the nurse in charge.

Nursing assistants are also needed because they provide care to patients to ensure that they achieve a standard quality of life. They help patients with personal hygiene by providing bedpans, shaving, and assisting with showers and baths and ensure that every single one of us are all looked after correctly.

Pros and cons of a career as a nursing assistant:

Pros:

  • It is very rewarding as nursing assistants make a huge difference to the lives of others
  • Nursing assistants get to make personal connections with many people
  • There are lots of opportunities in this growing field
  • There is a high demand nursing assistants
  • Not a lot of formal education is required, making it an accessible career
  • Nursing assistants can work in a number of different settings, which gives them lots of variety

Cons:

  • It can be a physically demanding job as nursing assistants are often required to lift patients, to set up equipment and to stand up or kneel down for periods of time
  • It can be incredibly emotionally draining
  • Nursing assistants may have to work long hours
  • Nursing assistants don’t get the respect, salary or recognition that other, more qualified, medical staff get

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of nursing assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth in employment is expected as the baby-boomer generation ages and the elderly population grows, the demand for the services of home healthcare aides will rise.

However, the demand for nursing assistants may be constrained slightly by the fact that many nursing homes rely on government funding. Cuts to programs such as Medicare and Medicaid may affect patients’ ability to pay for nursing home care. In addition, patient preferences and shifts in federal and state funding are increasing the demand for home and community-based long-term care, which should lead to increased opportunities for nursing assistants working in home health and community rehabilitation services.

Career paths

To become a nursing assistant you will typically need to complete a state-approved education program. These programs are available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes and tend to include both instruction on the principles of nursing and supervised clinical work. On top of this, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.

Example Job Titles for Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Below is a list of common job titles in the Nursing Assistant (CNA) field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $29,660 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,960 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $40,620.

The top paying industry was the government, where the median annual salary was $35,500. This is followed by hospitals, where the median annual salary was $31,120. Next was nursing care facilities($28,910), home healthcare services ($28,600) and then continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly ($28,590).

Autonomy and Flexibility

The level of autonomy and flexibility for a nursing assistants is neither particularly high nor low. Nursing assistants get to make some decisions over their patients care, but ultimately the patient will make the final decision. They also have to report back to their supervisors, further limiting their autonomy. They will also have some flexibility over how they plan their day , but as a whole they will have a schedule to stick to.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be a nursing assistant, based on salary and total number of jobs available, were:

  1. New Hampshire, where the average annual salary is $35,183
  2. Maine, where the average annual salary is $33,694
  3. Alaska, where the average annual salary is $41,589
  4. Oregon, where the average annual salary is $39,368
  5. Vermont, where the average annual salary is $33,801

The worst states for nursing assistants are Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.

Work environment

37% of nursing assistants in the United States were employed by nursing care facilities. 27% were employed by hospitals, 11% by continuing care retirement communities, 5% by home healthcare services and finally, 4% by the government.

Nursing assistants can work in a variety of settings. However, regardless of the setting, the work of a nursing assistant can be strenuous. They will spend a lot of time on their feet and may have to list or move patients, which if not done correctly can lead to injuries.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Nursing Assistant (CNA) careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Nursing Assistant (CNA) career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Nursing Assistant (CNA).

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Nursing assistants are likely to be a Myers-Briggs ISFJ personality type. ISFJ’s, otherwise known as the ‘protector’, are empathetic, loyal and gentle. They look out for others and have a genuine interest in caring for others and keeping them safe. All of these are key qualities of nursing assistant, who must care for people day in, day out.

Accomplishment and mastery

A career as a nursing assistant is pretty easy to enter. Therefore, the sense of accomplishment and mastery that nursing assistants feel is high to begin with, as they can start their career without much education or training. Similarly, throughout their career, nursing assistants will help patients each and every day, meaning the sense of accomplishment and mastery is likely to remain high. However, they are often always supervised and have little progression, so there is a limit to the accomplishment and mastery of nursing assistants.

Meaning and contribution

It is undoubtable that the work of a nursing assistant is highly meaningful and makes a huge difference to the lives of many. Nursing assistant take the pressure off nurses and other medical professionals and help with the smooth running of healthcare services. They also ensure that patients are cared for correctly, making them key members of society.

Life fit

Most nursing assistants will work full-time. They may also have to work evening and weekend hours, depending on the patients needs. Based on this, it can provide a tricky life fit at times.

Who will thrive in this career?

The only way that you will truly thrive as a nursing assistant is if you get great satisfaction out of helping others. Nursing assistants are not rewarded with a particularly high salary or recognition. Therefore, their satisfaction and reward  must come from helping others.

Thriving nursing assistants are also likely to be natural communicators. The role is focused on making people feel at ease and working as part of a nursing team, therefore nursing assistants must be naturals at this! Those who have the ability to solve problems will also thrive, as nursing assistants will often have to help their patients solve problems.

Who will struggle in this career?

Firstly, if you are not physically fit then you may struggle to keep up with the demands of job, which can involve lifting patients and/or standing up and kneeling down for periods of time. Those who are afraid of blood and gore may struggle as a nursing assistant Similarly, those who do not thrive off spending a whole day interacting with other people will struggle in this career.

Requirements

Skills and talents

Nursing assistants will need skills and talents such as:

  • Interpersonal skills, as nursing assistants must be able to form trusting relationships with patients
  • Physical stamina, as nursing assistants will need to be able to lift patients or help them to stand and walk
  • Patience, as working with ill patients can be a slow and frustrating process
  • Compassion and empathy, as nursing assistants may have to work with patients who are in pain or distressed and they must be able to relate and understand them
  • Communication skills, as nursing assistants will need to communicate with patients and with other healthcare staff

Education

To become a nursing assistant you will need to complete a state-approved education program. These programs are available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes and tend to include both instruction on the principles of nursing and supervised clinical work. On top of this, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.

Certifications

Specific requirements for nursing assistants vary by state. Nursing assistants often need a state-issued license or certification. After completing an approved education program, nursing assistants often must pass a competency exam, which allows them to use state-specific titles. In some states, a nursing assistant is called a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), but titles vary by state. Nursing assistants who have passed the competency exam are placed on a state registry. They must be on the state registry to work in a nursing home.

In some states, nursing assistants may earn additional credentials, such as Certified Medication Assistant (CMA). As a CMA, they may dispense medications.

How to Become

Summary

Nursing assistants are responsible for providing basic care to patients. They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, adult care centers, private residences, and assisted living facilities to help patients with activities of daily living. They greatly take the strain of other medical professionals, and improve the quality of their patients lives, by performing duties such as cleaning patients, dressing patients, helping patients use the toilet, reporting any health concerns or issues to to nurses and measuring the patients’ vitals.

Immediate action

The best thing to do to become a nursing assistant is to get as much relevant work experience as possible. After this, you can start looking for jobs in your local area!

Education and learning

Nursing assistant will need to complete a state-approved education program, which are  available in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. On top of this, nursing assistants typically complete a brief period of on-the-job training to learn about their specific employer’s policies and procedures.

Skill development

Nursing assistant will develop their skills through experience and on the job training. In some states, constant learning and skill development is required to keep licensure.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Nursing Assistant (CNA) careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33834 Certified Nursing Assistant Female 24 $25,000 Elwood, IN 01/01/2010
33657 Cna Female 40 $31,000 falls creek, PA 01/01/2010
33670 Cna Female 39 $28,000 Surprise, NY 01/01/2010
33648 Cna Female 43 $57,000 TAUNTON, MA 01/01/2010
33632 Cna Female 34 $25,000 Hemlock, NY 01/01/2010

Resources