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What is a CNA?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A job as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) can be rewarding. CNAs play a vital role when it comes to providing high-quality care to those living with disabilities at home or in an assisted living center. 


If it is your passion to care for others, becoming a CNA can be an ideal way to kickstart your career in the nursing/medical field. 


You get to interact directly with the patient or the client. You monitor their health on a regular basis and help them with daily living activities, among many other things. You also provide critical emotional support, and you become someone your clients can depend on when they need it.


And not only is a nursing assistant role rewarding, but it can be quite lucrative as well. It’s a career that can provide you with a lot of stability. 


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the demand for CNAs will continue growing over the coming years to meet the needs of the aging baby boomer population. 


That means that you will have plenty of options when it comes to your job choices due to the high demand for your services.


But how do you become a Certified Nursing Assistant in the state of New York?


In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a CNA in NY. We’ll discuss what a CNA is in further detail, what the requirements are, how much you can make, and more. 


We’ll also address some of the most frequent questions when it comes to a role as a nursing assistant.


What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?


The primary responsibility of a CNA is to assist nurses in a way that ultimately results in the best care possible for the patient, at their homes, or in a care facility. 


Your specific responsibilities will depend on your supervising nurse and the particular needs of those you’re caring for. 


Individual states also specify the responsibilities of CNAs. According to the New York State Department of Labor, CNAs will provide hand-on care to residents in nursing homes, including bathing, toileting, dressing, feeding, and helping them move around if necessary. 


Your tasks may also depend on how complex of a nursing unit you work in. 


If you’re providing care directly to a few clients who are living at home, and you’re helping them with activities of living such as bathing, grooming, and monitoring their health, then your tasks may be relatively routine.


On the other hand, if you’re working in a care facility under the supervision of a nurse with multiple patients with complex medical conditions, your role might be to make sure the nurse has all the supplies and data available whenever they need, so they can make the right decisions and take appropriate actions on the patient’s health. 


In general, the duties of a CNA can include the following tasks.


Keeping supplies ready for the RN - If the nurse is responsible for many patients, then he or she might need your help with making sure that all the supplies are ready for each relevant patient. That way, when the nurse has to step in, everything that is needed is readily available. 


Monitoring the patient’s vitals - For routine tasks such as monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, or other vitals, the nurse may depend on the CNA to keep track of the patient’s health on a day-to-day basis, and only notify them if there is something out of the ordinary. 


Adjusting patient position - There might be times when the patient needs to be physically moved or repositioned for administering medicine or other medical tasks. The nurse may ask you to help with adjusting the patient’s position so they can perform the required task.


Answering patient calls - When the patient needs something, or if they’re in discomfort, they might have a notification mechanism handy. And if you’re working in a larger care facility, it might not be feasible for the nurse to attend to each patient at all times, and you will have to respond instead.


Bathing and grooming patients -  Your care clients may be living with disabilities that make it challenging, or even impossible, for them to bathe and groom themselves. As a CNA, you might be tasked with assisting your clients in bathing and grooming to make sure that their hygiene is maintained to promote better health. 


Feeding patients - Another task that might fall into the category of daily living is to make sure that your patients are correctly fed. Depending on their conditions, individual patients might have dietary guidelines that they need to follow according to their treatment, and it would be up to you to ensure that they maintain their diet.


Coordinate with suppliers - If you’re working in a larger care facility, it might be your duty to make sure that all the necessary supplies are stocked. That may involve coordinating with all the relevant vendors and suppliers to make sure that the nursing and the medical team have access to all the equipment whenever they need it so that they can provide proper care to the patients. 


Helping patients with toileting - Your patient might not have the ability to either get to the bathroom or to make use of any toilet systems in place for them. It might be your responsibility to help your patients eliminate waste on time so they can be comfortable and healthy. 


Cleaning the patient’s room and bed - Cleaning the patient’s bed and the room is a common task for care providers and nursing assistants. A clean environment is not only essential for the patient’s dignity and quality of life, but also their overall health and wellbeing. You might not have to clean their rooms in some cases personally, but you’d make sure that it gets done by the cleaning staff on time.


Dressing wounds -  If your patient has a condition that leaves them more prone to injuries, or if they injure themselves randomly, you’d have to take care of their wound. You may have to apply any necessary ointments and apply the proper dressing to allow the wound to heal. 


These are just some of the examples of what a list of daily tasks might look like for a certified nursing assistant (CNA). As we explained before, it is ultimately up to your supervising nurse, and the requirements of those you’re caring for, that will determine what a day as a CNA looks like for you. 


If becoming a CNA sounds good so far, then you might be wondering how you can go about getting certified as a nursing assistant. 


How to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA)?


CNA is unique from other nursing and medical roles because you don’t need to hold a college degree. 


But you still need to get trained as a CNA, and you’ll get a postsecondary non-degree certificate or diploma.


The states issue CNA certifications, and below, we’ll look at the specific requirements to get certified in the state of New York.


Let’s take a look at the requirements necessary to become a certified nursing assistant.


Educational requirements for becoming a CNA


The educational requirements for a CNA are the following:


  • High school diploma, or GED
  • Nursing assistant training


A wide variety of educational institutes can offer nursing assistant training. Your options may include trade schools or even some medical facilities. Your local community college may also provide nursing assistant training.


Before you enroll, though, you should check with your state’s nursing board to make sure they officially accept the training you’re about to take. 


You should also check with the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission (NLNAC) to make sure they accept your training institution. 


When you complete your nursing training, you’ll have to pass the CNA certification exam before you can apply to start working as a CNA. 

What are the traits one needs to be a CNA?


The first and foremost characteristic of a nursing assistant has to be the fact that you genuinely want to provide care to those who are living with disabilities or medical conditions. 


When you think about having to bathe and groom an elderly person, does it stress you out, or are you filled with empathy and you view it as your duty to help them in a caring way?


How you answer that question to yourself might provide some critical insight into if a role as a nursing assistant is right for you.


  • That being said, here are some of the usual traits of someone working as a CNA.
  • The ability to communicate and coordinate between patients, nurses, and doctors
  • Being compassionate and caring
  • Being reliable
  • Physical strength and stamina to endure long hours
  • Management skills and the ability to multitask

What is the training that CNAs have to go through?


There are two components to CNA training. There are things you’ll learn in a classroom as well as in the more hands-on clinical practice setting.


CNA Classroom learning


The first component of CNA training that will take place in a classroom or lab. It will involve learning from a textbook or other course materials recommended by your instructors. 


In this portion of the training, you will learn all the fundamentals related to working as a nursing assistant. You will gain the basic framework of knowledge that will allow you to work in a medical/nursing home setting. 


Here are just some of the things you’ll learn about in the classroom portion of the CNA training:


  • The fundamentals of patient care principles
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • How to observe patients
  • Patient’s legal rights
  • Tracking and reporting the patient’s info to your nursing supervisor
  • How to maintain safety protocols


Once you have a solid grasp of these concepts, and more, you’re ready to move on to the next phase of nursing training, the clinical training setting. 


CNA Clinical practice training


Once you’ve completed the classroom portion of the training, your training program will place you into a clinical setting where you can apply some of what you've learned. 


This is the stage of the training where you get to work directly with patients, as well as with nurses and doctors who are providing care to them.


You may be placed in a hospital, nursing home, or another care facility. 


You will learn how to perform the essential duties of a CNA. As we discussed above, you may be tasked with monitoring the patient’s vitals, keeping their hygiene on point. You may also have to feed your patients, or even coordinate supplies with some of the vendors.


The specifics of where you’re placed and your tasks will depend on the course you’re enrolled in and the connections they have with local hospitals and care facilities. Most schools will work with you to place you in a setting where you can see yourself working after your training. 


The purpose of the clinical phase of the training is to get you completely familiar with what is expected of a CNA. It is an invaluable work experience that will prepare you for a future as a nursing assistant.


You can also make critical professional connections that will help you later down the road in your career. 


Things to consider when choosing a CNA training program


In this section, let’s take a look at some of the factors you should consider when looking into a CNA training program. You should do your research and pick a program that works best with your lifestyle, current obligations, schedule, budget, and other factors.


Cost of program - The cost will vary depending on the school. If you go with a medical facility that offers training, you may have an arrangement where the training is free, but you’re obligated to work for them for a certain period. If you choose a training program at a trade school or local college, be sure to inquire about tuition costs upfront. Also, remember to factor in miscellaneous costs like books, supplies, nursing uniforms, etc.


Length of training program - The training program length will again vary based on the program you choose to enroll in. In New York, a CNA training program at a college or vocational school will last at least 100 hours, 30 of which has to be in the clinical phase for practical training with patients and medical staff. 


Board approval of credentials - As we mentioned before, the program you choose must be approved by the state if you want to work as a certified nursing assistant. 


In the state of New York, the nursing aides certifications are overseen by the New York Department of Public Health. You can contact them at (518) 408-1297 to find out more about the state-approved CNA training programs. 


Availability of online options - Another thing to consider is the convenience factors of a training program, and how that might have an impact on your current life. Check with your school to see if they offer part of the course online. 


If you’re busy with a job, family, or anything else, having the ability to access part of your course online might make it more likely that you complete training. 


Of course, when it comes to the practical portion of the training, online is not an option, and you’d have to show up at the care or medical facility. 


CNA training centers in New York


We’ll include the contact information for some training programs around the state of NY, and a resource where you can find others.


Bronx, NY


1. Hostos Community College 


CNA Program


500 Grand Concourse

Bronx, NY 10451

(718) 518 - 4444


2. Lehman College 


CNA Program


250 Bedford Park Blvd W

Bronx, NY 10468

(718) 960 - 8000


Brooklyn, NY


1. Brooklyn Job Corps Center


CNA Program


585 Dekalb Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11205

(718) 623 - 4000


New York, NY


1. Ace Institute of Technology


CNA Program


312 W 36th St

New York, NY 10018

(212) 695 - 9700


2. Alliance Computing Solutions


CNA Program


545 8th Ave #1210

New York, NY 10018

(212) 868 - 5990


3. City College of New York


CNA Program


160 Convent Ave

New York, NY 10031

(212) 650 - 7000


4. Manhattan EOC


CNA Program


163 W 125th St

New York, NY 10027

(212) 961 - 4400


5. Mildred Elley - NYC Campus


CNA Program


25 Broadway

New York, NY 10004

(866) 370 - 4299


6. The Manhattan Institute


CNA Program


45 W 34th St

New York, NY 10001

(347) 220 - 8181


Rochester, NY


1. Rochester Educational Opportunity Center (REOC)


CNA Program


161 Chestnut St

Rochester, NY 14604

(585) 232 - 2730


Buffalo, NY


1. Trocaire College


CNA Program


360 Choate Ave

Buffalo, NY 14220

(716) 826 -1200


Other areas in New York


If you don’t happen to live in, or close to, one of the areas mentioned above, check out this comprehensive list of state-approved CNA training centers from the NY Department of Health.


Things to consider during your CNA training


Getting trained as a certified nursing assistant is a significant commitment. If you know what to expect, you’ll be able to plan accordingly and increase your chances of success.


Most successful students are the ones that find a way to balance between the demands of their nursing assistant training and those of their personal lives. 


CNA training can be both mentally and physically challenging


If you’ve taken college-level courses before, then you already know that classes can be a lot of work.


But training as a CNA takes it to a whole new level. 


Yes, the first classroom (or online) portion of the training can be similar in workload to most other classes. But when it gets to the practical phase in the clinic, that’s when it can get really challenging. 


Not only are you expected to remember everything you've learned in the classroom, but now you have to apply what you’ve learned. And you may have to do so while you’re spending all day on your feet working with patients, doctors, nurses, and coordinating with staff.


If you have another job or a family, this sort of workload can take a toll on you if you’re not careful. And if you’re not functioning at an optimal level, you won’t be able to stay sharp when providing care to your patients. 


Here are a few tips to help you balance between the demands of CNA training and your personal life.


Stay on track with your curriculum


Schedule time each day or each week to work on your CNA training. The last thing you want is to fall behind on your curriculum and then having to play catch up.


Complete your reading and assignments on time, and allow for time to review things that you might have forgotten. If you stay on track, then you’ll have a much easier time when exams come around. 


If you have a busy schedule outside of CNA training, then you should be even more meticulous. Track the amount of time it takes for you to commute to and from class, or for any other related tasks associated with your training. 


Being detail-oriented and planning well is something that will not only help you during training, but it is an essential skill of a CNA. 


Make your own health a priority


Operating at an optimal level of health is vital for your success during CNA training, as well as during your career as a nursing assistant. 


Having adequate energy and staying physically and mentally sharp will help you with your coursework as well as your CNA duties.


You have to keep track of data on multiple patients at the same time, and communicate them effectively to multiple parties (nurses, staff, etc.). When the patients need something, no matter how tired you are, you have to respond with compassion and in a caring way. Not to mention, you may require physical strength to bathe, dress, or reposition patients as you care for them.


The best way to stay in good physical shape is to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. You don’t need to spend hours at the gym, but 20-30 minutes each day of strength training or cardio will help.


Also, be sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. 


Find ways to manage and reduce stress


Managing and reducing stress is just as critical for a CNA as it is to maintain their health. Your training can get stressful at times, and if you don’t have tools to help you manage stress, it can eventually get overwhelming.


Exercise and a proper diet will already help you manage stress, but to go a step further, consider mindfulness practices like meditation. 


If that’s not your thing, just take time to do things that you find relaxing. It could be something as simple as chatting with your loved ones or playing with your dog. 

CNA certification exam in New york


Now that you’ve gone through the training, and you’re excited to take the next step, it’s time to take the certification exam so you can start applying for CNA jobs in NY. Or better yet, maybe you’ve already secured a job offer, and you need your certification to make it official. 


The training programs are designed to get you ready for your state’s CNA certification test, which consists of two parts. 


A written part and a practical part.


Typically, the written part of the exam is conducted in a group setting and will have multiple-choice questions. 


The practical part of the test is conducted with only one person at a time. You will be tested on the various competencies that you’ve learned on caring for patients during your CNA training. 

How to take the CNA test in NY


The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) has contracted with a company called Prometric to conduct the New York State (NYS) Nursing Home Nurse Aide Competency Examination. 


For more information on how to take the test, check out Prometric’s Nurse Aide Exam page. 


Alternatively, you can call Prometric if you have any questions about taking the test. 


Phone: 1.866.794.3497 - Option 2, then Option 1

Hours: M-F 8 am to 6 pm EST


Your school will also be able to help you with the formalities required to take the test.

Frequently asked questions about certified nursing assistants 

Do CDPAP aides get paid as much as CNAs?


CDPAP is a New York State Medicaid program that covers home care expenses for those living with disabilities or illnesses and needs help with activities of daily living. 


CDPAP aides typically make around $11-$16 per hour in New York (before overtime). This rate of pay is similar to a CNAs. 




What is the CNA salary in NY?


According to Glassdoor.com, the average base pay of CNAs in NYC is $30,507. CNAs don’t make as much as registered nurses, but it could be an ideal stepping stone for a future career in nursing. 


How long is the CNA course? 


How long it takes for you to go through training will depend on the program you choose. If you’re only focused on CNA training, you can get it done in a matter of weeks. For others, who have work and family obligations, it may take longer.


In New York, you have to complete 100 hours of training, 30 of which has to be in a clinical setting. 


Do you get paid while taking CNA classes? 


Typically, no. But there may be situations where you get to take classes for free. 


This is usually the case when training is paid for by a medical or nursing facility in exchange for an agreement that you’ll work for them for a specific period after your training. 


Where do CNAs usually work?


CNAs typically work in care facilities like nursing homes, but they can also work with patients directly in their homes. The specifics of where you work will depend on your job and your own preferences.


Do CNAs give shots? 


Shots are typically given by nurses and doctors, and the CNAs job is to only assist them in the process. Each state regulates the duties of a CNA, and in NY, it’s under the supervision of the NY Department of Health


Do CNAs have to clean poop? 


Not the answer that anyone wants to hear, but yes, as a CNA you may have to deal with a patient’s poop. 


If they aren’t able to go to the bathroom on their own, they might need your help, and sometimes, especially if they are sick, accidents can happen. 


But most nursing aides eventually get used to this aspect of the job, as you’ll have all the cleaning supplies and help from the hospital staff that you need.


For most CNAs, the reward of helping a patient live a comfortable and dignified life is greater than the discomfort of helping them with tasks like helping them go to the bathroom.


Can CNA start IV? 


In New York, IVs are started by registered nurses. In some states, depending on if the CNA has the specialized training, they might be allowed to administer IVs. 


Final thoughts on becoming a CNA in NY


A career as a certified nursing assistant can be very rewarding if you’re the right person for it. 


You’ll get to provide care for those living with disabilities and medical conditions. It can also be a challenging job because you’ll have to learn to multi-task and communicate with various parties simultaneously.


A job as a CNA can also serve as a stepping stone towards a career in nursing, and you’ll likely enjoy a stable career due to the increasing demand for healthcare workers in the United States.


If you feel like you’re the right fit for a CNA role, the first step is to find the right training program in your area. Use the resources in this article to learn more about a few different programs before you make a choice.


A CNA training program that fits your budget, goals, and lifestyle can be the first step towards a long, lucrative, and rewarding career in the field of nursing. 

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