What Does a CNA Do: Career Guide

LNA donning a mask

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are responsible for attending to the direct healthcare needs of their patients, usually under the supervision of a registered nurse. CNAs are also referred to as “nurse aides” or “nursing assistants.” In most instances, they’re responsible for some of the more demanding physical tasks of patient care. CNAs play an integral role in patient care and can be found in many healthcare settings, including post-acute facilities.

If you’re asking, “what does a CNA do?” then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a guide that will cover the typical responsibilities of a CNA, where they work, what it takes to become one, and the average CNA salary ranges you can expect.

What Are the Typical Responsibilities of a CNA?

What does a CNA do at a hospital? What does a CNA do in a nursing home? The reality is that a CNA’s responsibilities can depend on their practice setting. However, there are some common responsibilities of a CNA no matter where they work. A CNA is usually overseen by the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN) on duty and can typically handle the following tasks:

  • Providing basic care and helping with activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, and dressing.
  • Keeping tabs on patients’ vital signs and general conditions.
  • Ensuring timely reports and appropriate documentation of the patient’s condition.

Depending on their training and the state they’re in, nursing assistants may also be able to administer medication. There’s another key part of any CNA job description: physical requirements. Because they provide direct assistance with daily living activities like patient mobility, a CNA must be able to meet minimum physical lifting requirements.

Nursing assistants are often the main caregivers and can develop strong and rewarding relationships with patients, especially in the long-term care setting.

Where Do CNAs Typically Work?

Because of their broad range of patient support, Certified Nursing Assistants fit into several healthcare settings. Some of these settings include:

  • Long-Term Care Facilities
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Adult daycare centers
  • Home Health
  • Hospitals

Because patients need longer term support with daily living activities in post-acute facilities, CNAs are more often found in rehabilitation centers, specialized nursing facilities, and home health centers.

What Does a CNA Do: Training and Qualifications

There are specialized training and certifications required to become certified nursing assistants. The basic requirement is often a high school diploma and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification from an approved CNA educational program. If you’re looking into CNA training, you may want to consider some of the following factors to decide which one is right for you:

  • Training Hours: A program may meet minimum federal or state requirements, but remember that a more comprehensive program will better prepare you to work as a CNA.
  • Student-Teacher Ratio: Some states set limits on the numbers of students allowed per instructor for clinical training, but for the best quality of training look for the lowest ratio, the closer to 1:5, the better.
  • Internships and Shadowing: The ability to observe or work with medical professionals performing their daily activities is an invaluable part of any training program.
  • Reimbursement: In many cases facilities with Medicaid contracts are required to offer reimbursement to CNA students.

When applying for jobs, some facilities might require at least six months of experience in post-acute care or relevant in-patient care. A prospective CNA may also be subject to a background check depending on the state of practice.

What is the Average Pay for a CNA?

While this varies by facility, the average hourly pay for CNAs is around $14.56 per hour. There are other factors which can determine a CNA salary range, such as:

  • Education
  • Certifications
  • Experience
  • Extra skills
  • Number of hours worked per week
  • Location
  • Staffing needs

Some facilities utilize staffing agencies that treat CNAs as 1099 contractors, but that often means less consistent pay and few, if any, benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Working as a CNA?

Due to the realities of an aging population, the need for quality care is increasing. Certified Nursing Assistants are currently among the most qualified professionals to cater to this need. In addition to the high demand, there are also a vast array of opportunities for CNAs across several healthcare settings, including working per-diem. Some of these per-diem opportunities also allow CNAs to design their work schedules based on their preferences.

Working as a CNA is rewarding, especially if you’re passionate about helping people and giving care to others. As a nursing assistant, you get to work closely with patients, delivering care at the frontline, and helping people to heal both physically and emotionally.

So, whether you’re looking at taking up a CNA role temporarily or as a long-term career, you can rest assured that it’s worthwhile. It’s a great first step into the healthcare industry if you have further goals to become an LPN or RN, for example. If you’re on that career path, a temporary per-diem role as a CNA might be the perfect role for you as you gain your credentials.

What Does a CNA Do for IntelyCare? Find Out Today

If you want to start working as CNA but don’t know where to start, we’re here to help. IntelyCare treats our nursing professionals the right way — as W2 employees with the freedom to choose their own shifts. Learn more about our higher pay and benefits today.


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If you are a nurse or nursing assistant looking to join our network of nursing professionals, please visit our IntelyPro Application.

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