CNA Certification Requirements

For anyone considering a career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), obtaining the requisite education is a process that can take many forms. From community college and other campus training to free hospital-provided CNA training to online courses, learning the skills necessary to qualify as a certified nursing assistant can be a highly individualized path. Completing the courses required to become a CNA, however, is not the end of the journey for those pursuing this career path. To be fully qualified as a certified nursing assistant, every student must first fulfill the requirements of CNA certification by passing the CNA exams.

The National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) is the primary exam for CNA certification in the United States. More than a million aspiring nursing assistants have taken the exam, which is administered in several segments that encompass written, oral, and skills testing sections. The written part of the exam involves a series of multiple choice questions that cover a broad spectrum of skills information that CNA candidates are expected to know. The oral section, given in both English and Spanish, consists of 10 basic comprehension questions and several dozen multiple choice problems. The skills testing segment is designed to test an applicant’s ability to perform the tasks required of every CNA. During this part of the test, candidates are provided the opportunity to demonstrate their learned skills in a simulated hospital setting, with both nursing staff and exam officials evaluating performance.

In addition to the NNAAP, there are nearly 250 CNA certification programs available to those who have successfully completed the roughly 9 months to a year of certified nursing training that is a prerequisite to most testing. Each of these CNA certification exams have been approved by the American Nurse Association Commission of Nurse Accreditation, and enable successful candidates to receive placement on their state’s nurse aide registry and be eligible for annual renewal of their certification.

Beyond the federal requirements for certified nursing assistants who work in nursing homes and other locales, the states each have their own requirements for certification, with state CNA certification exams usually provided through a State Board of Nursing program. State requirements usually entail that nursing assistants be healthy, drug-free, and without a criminal history. To that end, health screenings and background checks are conducted at the state level to ensure compliance. State CNA certification must be maintained from year to year, with renewal usually being required prior to the last day of December and including updated personal information.

There are also, of course, personal requirements needed for CNA certification. While the personal qualities that drive each person seeking a career as a CNA vary from individual to individual, certain qualities are held in common by almost every successful nursing assistant. All are caring individuals with the patience to engage in repetitive activity on a daily basis. In addition, successful nursing assistant candidates should have a strong desire to be a frontline member of the medical team, as many patients receive more visits from CNAs than from doctors and nurses combines.

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