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A career in the medical field is a challenging but ultimately rewarding venture.  Most medical professionals have sought employment in their various fields because of a deeply entrenched desire to help people.  Medical professionals work directly with patients and their families, assisting people through illnesses, injuries, surgeries, diseases, treatment, and ultimately recuperation.  An individual in the medical profession must have excellent people skills, good command of the English language, excellent organizational skills, a superb work ethic, and a determination to persevere through trying and strenuous times.

What is a CNA?

A CNA, or a Certified Nursing Assistant, is an individual with basic medical training who assists nurses in the various tasks that must be completed in a medical, surgical or rehabilitative establishment.  These individuals are often the ones that patients see daily.  As such, CNAs must have good relational skills and an ability to connect and nurture the patients whom they attend.  CNAs work with a variety of different patients and fulfill an equally wide variety of different needs.  Some CNAs work with children in pediatric hospitals.  Others work in nursing homes and attend to the elderly.  Some CNAs manage tasks such as filing paperwork and organizing records.  Others complete caretaker jobs such as changing bedding, washing immobile patients, delivering food, and communicating with patients to assess their needs.

What Education is Required?

A Certified Nursing Assistant must complete a nursing certification course at a community college or a vocational school.  This schooling process generally does not require a great deal of time, and yet it opens up a world of opportunities for graduates of the program.  Typically, a nursing assistant certification program requires between sixty and eighty hours of coursework.  This coursework will cover basic subjects such as nutrition, anatomy, and physiology and will also provide instruction regarding communication skills, patient care skills, and the rights of residents in a medical institution. 

After the coursework is completed, a process which generally takes no more than twelve weeks, the student will take a simple exam.  The CNA exam is divided into two sections: a written section and a practical section.  This test will evaluate a student’s knowledge in the basics of nursing care.  If the student passes the exam, he or she is a fully fledged Certified Nursing Assistant.  Immediately after receiving certification, a student can begin seeking employment.

Career Outlook and Salaries

The career outlook for Certified Nursing Assistants is extremely positive.  Because the medical profession is expanding so rapidly, more and more hospitals, nursing homes, long term care facilities, and rehabilitation centers are requiring specially trained individuals to help share the work load.  In fact, this career field is expected to continue to grow for the next fifty years.  In the economic recession when many career fields were rapidly shrinking, the need for Certified Nursing Assistants was persistent in its growth. 

Starting salaries for CNAs are comparable to other entry level career positions.  However, unlike a career as a receptionist or a cashier, a CNA has the unique privilege of being able to make a significant difference in the lives of those with whom he or she interacts.  While the starting salary of around $25,000 may seem small, the privilege of reaching out to and helping people who are sick or hurting is invaluable.  Furthermore, most CNAs go on to quickly rise in the medical field and opportunities are presented constantly for these individuals to further their education and achieve higher paying positions.

Types of CNA Jobs

There are a variety of different areas where CNAs are needed.  All of these areas fall under the umbrella of the medical profession, but the duties and responsibilities required are considerably different.  Here are a few examples of areas where CNAs can readily find employment:

Nursing Home Assistant: A nursing assistant at a nursing home is a busy employee.  Many nursing homes have hundreds of residents who need a variety of different types of care.  CNAs employed at nursing homes may be in charge of answering patient calls, distributing medication, escorting patients to meals, delivering meals to bedridden patients, changing linens, assisting patients in bathing, greeting and escorting family members, and much more.

Pediatric Care Assistant: A CNA in a pediatric facility must have a special gift, the gift of delighting children.  Pediatric care is often a heartbreaking and emotionally draining enterprise; however, it is one of the most rewarding medical branches as well.  CNAs in a pediatric center may be in charge of: changing linens, organizing activities, delivering meals, distributing and administering medication, monitoring charts, responding to patient calls, interacting with family members, emptying bed pans, checking vital signs, and more.

Retirement Facility Assistant: Patients who live at a retirement facility are often much more self reliant than those who live in a nursing home.  These individuals can live high functioning lives and simply need the retirement facility to ease the completion of daily tasks.  CNAs at these facilities may be in charge of: processing paperwork, updating medical records, ordering and delivering medication, delivering meals, changing bed linens, offering bathing assistance, and organizing activities.

Medical Transcriptionist: A medical transcriptionist is a type of CNA that spends most of his or her time dutifully typing away at the computer or organizing a hectic filing cabinet.  The efficiency of a hospital or other medical establishment is often dependant on the organization of its medical files.  Therefore, a medical transcriptionist is an important element of any hospital. 

Home Care Agency Assistant: Some patients prefer to receive home care.  Many agencies that provide this type of care offer CNAs to help them manage their patients’ needs.  CNAs who work for home care facilities will be in charge of: packing equipment and materials into a car or van, visiting the homes of patients, changing linens, delivering meals, monitoring vital signs, keeping records, responding to patient calls, offering shower assistance, and administering medication.

Emergency Hospital Aide: The ER is noted for its fast-paced, hectic atmosphere.  Often, the disorganization of an ER threatens to disrupt the whole facility.  A CNA who seeks employment in an emergency room will be in charge of: checking patients in, assessing a patient’s needs and informing nurses and doctors, receiving family members, organizing paperwork and files, answering phones, giving breaks to nurses, and managing the administrative side of the ER.



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