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Training to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a serious endeavor, due to the fact that human health and, possibly, lives will be in your hands, and for this reason the training is carried out under the direction of a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN) and as part of a governmentally certified training program.
Although the actual legal guidelines are laid down at the Federal level, the training program is designed and approved at the level of the State where you will be undergoing your training. The minimum amount of training needed to become a CNA is 100 hours of clinical training – the “hands on” part of the process” – and 50 hours of theoretical training. Your training is ongoing over time as well, once you are certified; since medical procedures are constantly evolving, you will need to carry out 48 hours of additional training every 2 years.
Most of your training is related to caring directly for patients, since much of the work formerly carried on by nurses has been shifted onto the less-salaried shoulders of CNAs. You will, in effect, act as a physical caretaker for the patients – making their beds, helping them bathe and dress, feeding those who are incapable of doing so, helping with basic exercises and physical therapy, and so on. Bedpans must be emptied after the color, consistency, smell, and other characteristics of the contents have been carefully observed and the details added to the written notes. These, in accordance with the modern era’s obsession with creating an acronym for everything, are termed activities of daily living – shortened to ADLs.
Several other important matters included in CNA training include learning to scrupulously wash the hands as frequently as possible, and to wash in the correct manner to maximize cleanliness, both for the patients’ safety and your own; detailed knowledge of patients’ rights, including their right to accept or reject treatments, to privacy and dignity; and, most critically of all, to note vital signs accurately and report them clearly and immediately to a nurse or doctor if any change has occurred in them.
Although this learning process is detailed and involves absorbing much new material, your progress will be aided by the knowledge of the nurse supervising you. As you move through your training, the most essential learning tool of all is to never hesitate to ask when you are in even slight doubt about a procedure. Asking and listening are the two most vital learning skills, and your success both in your training and in your CNA career will hinge on your ability to ask, and to absorb the answer.