Career Change

Learn the Career Path of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Learn the Career Path of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Considered working as a CNA? This interview will take you down the career path of a Certified Nursing Assistant including the ups and downs you can expect in the position, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to and is one of many interviews with health care professionals which among others include a Registered Nurse and an Assistant Director of Nursing.

My full job title is Certified Nursing Assistant, (C.N.A.), and I work in the healthcare industry in a variety of ways. I have worked in this particular area of nursing for the past 10 years.

A good job description would be I work in a nursing position that is one step below a LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse), and two steps below an RN (Registered Nurse). I am certified to work within a certain area and have certain restrictions placed on what I can/cannot legally do within my spectrum.

My area of responsibility includes taking and monitoring vital signs, checking blood sugar levels, collecting urine specimens, assisting patients with their showers or baths, changing sheets, changing of dressings where appropriate, transferring patients from chair to bed, etc. The biggest misconception I hear all the time from people about my position is they confuse CNA with CPA, a Certified Public Accountant.

When I am working as a CNA, my job satisfaction usually is a 10 because I really enjoy working with people and caring for them. I am blessed in the process of helping others.

This job definitely moves my heart. How can it not? I'm looking after people in need. This type of work is definitely my sweet spot.

What may be unique about my experiences and personal situation is I work as a CNA and as a Special Education Teaching Assistant simultaneously. In addition, I have used some of my CNA skills at my position at a high school while working with students who have physical handicaps.

The way I became interested in CNA work was when my own parents were placed in an assisted living facility. The CNAs there had independence and responsibility, and I liked how they were making a big difference in the lives of people who needed so much help. I would change how CNAs are perceived as the low man on the totem pole; they are actually the backbone of patient care.

The hardest lesson I had to learn was to understand what I'm responsible for as a CNA. I stepped out of my boundary once, which caused a few problems.

The single most important thing I learned about the working world is that I'm just a little fish in a big fishbowl. No one wants excuses or someone who only does half the job. You are expected to show up on time and do your job to the best of your ability, or someone else will.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me was when a new patient arrived unexpectedly and died suddenly on a couch before we even had a room for her.

I get up and go to work each day because I know patients are waiting for me to take care of them; staff members are tired and want to go home. Something that always makes me feel proud is when my patients are clean and comfortable.

The challenges I handle are always the unexpected ones, like a patient has a sudden change in his status, someone you are particularly fond of is close to death, a whole floor of patients contracts a flu virus at the same time. What makes me want to pull my hair out is when I'm not made aware of changes that affect how I do my job.

This position is as stressful as you allow it to be. Any job can be stressful because it's your perception of the job that holds the stress. Of course, at times there are emergencies, deaths, etc. and that does affect you, but you are there to do a job, it must be done. I make sure I'm able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The hourly pay rate for a CNA in a hospital setting usually will be higher than the pay in a long-care facility. In the area of home health care, the range is quite wide, anything from $8-$15 an hour. On private duty, it can be even higher. There are a lot of variables. The full-time pay for a 40-hour week should be enough to support someone. Although I watch my budget like everyone, I'm doing fine.

Vacation benefits vary by facilities. Some offer one week's vacation after six months, while others after the first year. It varies. Is that enough? Everyone would always like a longer vacation!

To be a CNA one must have a high school diploma and complete a CNA course at a college, which can be completed in about three months. The skills needed for this position are compassion for your fellow man, the ability to remember instructions, common sense, some interest in the medical world, and the ability to do some lifting.

I would tell my friends to go ahead and seek a career in the field of nursing at any level. There is such a demand now, more than ever, for nurses at all levels. Nurses, from CNAs to RNs and beyond, always find employment. There are also Medical Technicians and doctor's Assistants, and many more opportunities in this field.

In five years, I would like to have finished my Associate's Degree, work part-time as a CNA, maintain my writing career and see what new opportunities are just over the horizon.

Image from Alexander Raths/Shutterstock