CNA / Certified Nursing Assistant or Direct Care Giver

Description of Specialty

CNAs are the hands-on care givers to residents/patients in Hospitals, Long Term Care Facilities, Home Health, Hospice, Assisted Living, and sometimes Clinics. They are the eyes and ears for Doctors and Nurses. CNAs are the ones providing daily care, ADLs, a gentle touch to the lonely, a knowing smile and a calming voice to the scared and confused. They are the listening ear and very often the voice for those who cannot speak. CNAs are the strong side of the vulnerable and frail.

CNAs routinely provide care beginning first thing in the morning with toilet routines, bathing and dressing for meals. Sometimes this includes assistance with prosthesis or assistant devices. They may direct residents/patients to meals, accompany them or assist them with meals. They straighten their rooms and keep them hydrated. They make sure residents/patients have everything they need for hygiene such as oral care and hair care and if the individual needs assistance they provide it whether it be encouraging and directing them to do it themselves or do it for them. They make sure residents/patients have clean clothes and look presentable. They use their family members to learn more about them such as their likes and dislikes, their backgrounds and beliefs. They learn their stories!

CNAs make sure residents/patients make it to therapy, find them when they have a visitor, look up a number and dial it for them when they need to make a call. CNAs take vital signs, dry tears, bathe the sick and obtain assistance. Most of the time CNAs are the first to know when something is wrong. To everyone else the resident/patient may look fine but the CNA knows they are not fine - something is not right and it is then they can become their life line.

Educational Requirements

The requirements vary from state to state; however, most states require at least a GED. Certification is gained through classroom instruction by a Registered Nurse trained to teach the class and depending on the state, the number of hours required varies. This typically takes from one to six months of study, depending on the course chosen.

Licensing Requirements

After this course, which is the first part of the CNA certification process, an exam with two components, a theoretical and a practical one must be successfully completed. The requirements for this exam are different in each state, but some eligibility conditions are common to all. The CNA can then achieve other certifications such as Certified Med Aide or Certified Restorative Aide. These require specialized training again by a registered nurse.


CNAs through peer mentoring become leaders in their profession. When a CNA’s passion for what they do is infective to their co-workers and others around them it becomes a positive force field as others develop that same passion through their lead.

There are National Associations available for CNAs such as the National Association of Health Care Assistants or NAHCA which has distance learning for CNAs in the form of a Career Ladder. CNAs can take classes on line to better themselves as care givers. These classes help to develop positive thinking and awareness, working together as a team, team leadership, accountability, financial aspects of the facility and much more. Professional Development coaches are also available through NAHCA.

Professional Associations

Resources for Training