Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Salary

Certified Nursing Assistant

Many people are familiar with the role nurses play, so some may ask what exactly are Certified Nursing Assistants?  CNAs are the first point of contact and bonding for patients in long term healthcare facilities and perform day to day tasks to support the entire medical team.  Want to know how much CNAs make?  We will go over CNA Salary in this article.

CNA Salary

What is the salary of a CNA?  Currently, the annual average salary for CNAs is about $26,000 and the hourly average salary is about $12.5.  The top 10% of individuals in the occupation are earning around $35,000 while the starting wage can be as low as $18,000.  The top paying states are Alaska, New York, Nevada, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

There are three major industries that Certified Nursing Assistants serve, including hospitals, long term care facilities such as nursing homes, and home healthcare services.  Most CNAs work full time plus weekends and holidays, but because nursing homes and hospitals provide care 24/7 most professionals can find a flexible schedule to fit their needs.

CNA Responsibilities

What are the responsibilities of a CNA?  They provide basic healthcare to patients on a daily basis.  CNAs typically assist patients with bathing, dressing, walking, range of motion exercises, turning, lifting and moving bedridden patients and other basic daily needs.  Additionally, they report all changes and patient concerns to nurses.  In some cases CNAs may dispense medication depending on their training and the state in which they work.

In hospitals and long term care facilities they are the first point of contact for patients and their families in situations that can be frightening and therefore are first to bond with and show empathy for patients.  In nursing homes they are principal caregivers and have more contact with residents than other staff.  Because residents usually stay in assisted living homes for months or years at a time assistants may form close relationships with their patients.

As a CNA it is important that individuals have excellent communication skills as they must be able to effectively communicate and address patients’ needs or concerns in addition to relaying all important information to other healthcare providers.  They also need to have a lot of compassion and patience as nurses assistants provide care for the sick, injured, and elderly.

Work Environment

In general, CNAs work under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN).  The job can be strenuous as assistant nurses are on their feet for much of the day and regularly lift patients and heavy objects.  During the typical day most are exposed to various bodily fluids and infectious diseases so protective clothing such as masks and gloves is required.

Most facilities where CNAs work provide care 24/7.  For this reason assistant nurses often have flexibility when it comes to their schedule.  Although the majority of assistant nurses are employed as full time staff there are facilities that hire part time employees.

Given that patients in long term facilities require direct personal care every day CNAs may be need to work weekends and holidays in addition to the regular scheduled hours.  In most cases CNAs will be able to rotate holidays and weekends.

How to become a CNA

In order to become a CNA individuals must complete a state-approved education program.  The program usually provides students with the basic principles of nursing and allows them to complete supervised clinical work.  These programs can be found in high schools, community colleges, vocational and technical schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Programs can require anywhere from 75-150 hours of classroom time and practical training and can cost between $1,250 and $2,000.  It largely depends if the program charges per credit hour or a flat fee.  In addition, nursing assistants typically undergo on the job training to learn more about their employer’s specific policies and procedures.

Once the education program is complete candidates must take a competency exam that if passed allows them to use a state-specific title such as Certified Nursing Assistant.  Those that pass are placed on a state registry and are eligible to work in the specific state they tested in.  However, some states have additional requirements such as continuing education and criminal background checks.  Check with state boards of nursing or health for more information.

Furthermore, some states allow nursing assistants to earn other credentials such as becoming a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA).  As a CMA they can administer medications.  Nursing assistants can also choose to be certified in a specialty area like geriatrics.

Career Outlook

By 2022 employment opportunities for CNAs is projected to grow at a rate of 21%; faster than average for all occupations.  As more and more baby-boomers approach retirement age the number of individuals in need of personal round the clock care will rise.  Additionally, the growing rate of chronic disease such as dementia will lead to an ever increasing need for nursing assistants.

While demand may be increasing the supply of CNAs may be limited because many nursing homes rely on government funding.  Cuts to medical programs like Medicare and Medicaid can affect patients’ abilities to pay for nursing homes.  However, there has been a recent shift in patient preferences as more choose to enter home or community based care which should lead to increased opportunities for nursing assistants in the future.

Related Careers

Home Health Aides help people who are disabled, have become chronically ill, or are cognitively impaired.  There are no education requirements to be a Home Health Aide, but most have at least a high school diploma.  Because they tend to work in environments that can be physically and emotionally draining Home Health Aides must be in good health, have patience, be dependable, have good interpersonal skills, and manage time efficiently.  A Home Health Aide average annual salary is $20,250.

Personal Care Aides help clients with self-care and day to day tasks while also providing companionship.  They cannot provide any medical care and therefore are usually hired in addition to healthcare providers.  There are no formal education requirements to become a Personal Care Aide, but most are detail oriented, have good physical stamina, and interpersonal and time management skills.  The average annual salary for Personal Care Aides is $19,910.

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