If you think nursing is for you, but you want to be sure before furthering your education, one way to start is by getting hands-on experience as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
Let’s get the burning question out of the way: How long does it take to become a nurse assistant? In just under 12 weeks, you could be well on your way to practicing in this role. That sounds pretty good if you’re eager to get a running start, right?
Read on to learn how to become a CNA and how the educational journey for this role compares to that of more advanced healthcare roles like those of registered nurses (RN) and physicians.
How to become a Certified Nursing Assistant
Becoming a CNA is as easy as 1-2-3, so long as you love learning about the human body, healthcare terms, and medicine. Here are the three main steps you’ll need to take to hold this role:
Earn a high school diploma or GED
Let’s qualify a statement we made above. Yes, you can become a CNA in fewer than 12 weeks if you have your high school diploma or GED. If you don’t, you may have to study for a few years longer, but any nursing degree will require these credentials, so you’ll be setting yourself up well for any nursing career you wish to pursue.
Complete a CNA training program + clinical hours
We recommend researching online, hybrid, and in-person certified nursing assistant training programs (do confirm that the one you choose meets your state’s requirements for study and clinical training hours). In this program, you’ll spend a minimum of 75 hours in classroom training (even if your CNA classroom is virtual) and around 16 hours shadowing a nurse. You’ll learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, and focus on practical skills for patient care like feeding and bathing.
Pass the CNA certification exam
Put on your most comfortable scrubs and get your head in the game. It’s time to sit for your certification exam so that you can begin practicing. Twenty states use a nursing assistant certification exam provided by the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP), and the others have their own tests. Once you pass your state exam, you’ll be able to explore CNA job opportunities.
What skills do you need to become a clinical nurse assistant?
To excel in their careers, all healthcare professionals need to demonstrate both “hard” and “soft” skills. Here are a few you’ll need as a CNA:
Knowledge of medical terminology
Doctors speak medicine and seeing as you’ll be working closely with physicians, you need to learn their language. This will allow you to have a good handle on medical terms when you explain patient conditions to the doctors on your team.
Compassion and empathy
As a CNA, you’ll work directly with patients as a caregiver, often performing sensitive personal care tasks like bathing, feeding, or dressing. You’ll need to make patients feel comfortable by showing them your empathetic, understanding side.
Verbal and written communication
CNAs take vital signs and communicate closely with supervising nurses (not to mention their patients). As individuals who have direct contact with patients, CNAs play an essential role in communicating important observations to a medical team and explaining conditions to family members.
Knowledge of drug administration
As a CNA, you’ll administer certain oral and topical medications under the supervision of a nurse. Even if you’re working with a mentor, it’s best to keep your pharmacological knowledge fresh so that you feel confident in your clinical skills.
How long does it take to become a registered nurse or doctor?
Ready to further your career by putting your love of medicine to work in a more advanced healthcare role? If so, be prepared to hit the books again.
How long does it take to become a nurse?
To become a registered nurse, you’ll need to complete a college-level degree at an accredited nursing school. You can either earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). We recommend earning your BSN if you plan to specialize or pursue an advanced nursing role, as this degree is the base requirement for many of these roles. ADN programs take around two years, and BSNs require four (although you may be able to find accelerated nursing programs).
If you plan to specialize or become an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner, you may need to pursue a continuing education degree like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a doctorate, which implies several additional years of schooling.
How many years does it take to become a doctor?
The shortest time to become a doctor is around six years, which includes a four-year medical school period plus a short residency (which, in all honesty, is rare). So, how many years is a residency for most specialties? Between four and five.
If you’re interested in learning how to become a physician, start by researching the requirements for the specialty area that’s closest to your heart. For example, how long does it take to be a pediatrician? Around nine years. And, how many years does it take to become a surgeon? Roughly 13 years. It’s important to remember the length of the educational journeys for different kinds of doctors varies greatly. So, as you determine whether being a doctor is worth it, weigh the length, cost, and difficulty of the schooling in your decision-making process.
Wherever your career path takes you, we’ll be by your side, and we hope our scrubs will be in your wardrobe. We’ll always be here to support you with performance workwear that’s perfect for CNAs, surgeons, and everyone in between.