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What is a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)?

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), also known as orderlies or nursing aides, are healthcare professionals who provide basic care for patients in hospitals and/or residents of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

The retiring Baby Boomer generation has greatly increased the need for healthcare professionals like Certified Nursing Assistants, and the CNA field is expected to grow by 21% over the next eight years. With more than 300,000 jobs becoming available, CNAs have a great opportunity for future job security.

The ideal Certified Nursing Assistant maintains strong and flexible physical stamina, an attitude of compassion and respect, strong communication skills, and patience.
What do CNAs do?
A CNA's job requirements and responsibilities include helping with activities of daily living. A CNA is expected to:
  • Clean and bathe patients
  • Assisting residents with activities of daily living
  • Turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds and wheelchairs
  • Listen to and record patients' health concerns and report that information to nurses
  • Measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Assist with feeding
Depending on their training and their state of practice, some CNAs may be responsible for dispensing medication to patients or residents.

In long-term healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes, CNAs commonly work as principal caregivers. A CNA may have more contact with residents than other members of the staff. Due to the nature of this relationship, residents who stay in nursing homes for extended periods of time may develop close attachments to their CNAs, and vice versa.

Certified Nursing Assistants work as part of a healthcare team, directly under the supervision of licensed practical or vocational nurses and registered nurses. CNAs spend the majority of their working hours on their feet while caring for a varied but high number of patients. CNAs wear uniforms ("scrubs") to maintain the cleanliness of their healthcare facility and the safety of the personnel and residents. Training for proper lifting and moving of patients is required or provided by most CNA employers.
Where do CNAs work?
In 2021, Certified Nursing Assistants held roughly 1.3 million jobs, with half of all CNAs working in nursing and residential care facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A heavier demand on the healthcare industry by an aging workforce will require more CNAs to care for elderly patients in long-term care facilities with special interest in chronic conditions and dementia.
What is the difference between a CNA and LNA?
Effective July, 1, 2016, Nursing Assistants may opt to either register as a CNA or apply to become a Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA). Once a student passes the Arizona State Board of Nursing written and skills exam, the student will be registered as a CNA and entered on the Arizona State Board of Nursing Registry.

In order to become an LNA, there is no other training to be taken. Upon passing the Arizona State Board of Nursing Exam, the student merely has to submit an application to become an LNA with a $50 application fee and a $50 fingerprint criminal history clearance fee. A separate fingerprint card will need to be completed for this purpose.

Please refer to the AZ State Board of Nursing for more detailed and up to date information on what's needed to become an LNA.
Find out How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant with Medstar Academy
Please call us at (623) 773-9000 or email us for further information. Our office hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.

CNA Training Program Details
Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

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