What Does a CNA Do?

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Written by Aislinn Twohig Marketing Campaign Manager, IntelyCare
Young nurse assistant crouching and talking with elderly resident in a wheelchair.

Healthcare is a complex system of different teams all doing their individual parts to contribute to the functioning of the whole. Nursing is a key component of the larger system, and it’s made up of a number of job titles that run the gamut from bedside care to management to administration.

But there are other nursing professionals that contribute mightily to the healthcare landscape: CNAs. What does a CNA do? We’ll find out their responsibilities, where they work, what it takes to become one, and their average salary ranges.

What Is a CNA?

CNA stands for certified nursing assistant. 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 and can be found in many healthcare settings, including post-acute facilities.

What Does a CNA Do?

CNAs are responsible for attending to the direct healthcare needs of their patients, usually under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN) or a licensed practical nurse (LPN). A particular practice setting may dictate a CNA’s tasks.

What Does a CNA Do in a Hospital?

CNAs in hospital settings tend to work with a greater mix of patients, young and old, that have a varying needs. Individuals may be recovering from surgery or illness.

What Does a CNA Do in a Nursing Home?

The resident population you’d be working with nursing homes is composed of elderly and/or people with disabilities.

Common CNA Responsibilities

While the answer to “what does a CNA do” varies, there are some overlapping responsibilities with those of an LPN. No matter where you work, typical CNA duties can include:

  • Providing basic patient 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.

Many CNA duties have physical requirements. Because they provide direct assistance with daily living activities like patient mobility, a CNA must be able to meet minimum lifting requirements and be able to be on their feet for long stretches of time.

Nursing assistants are often the main caregivers and can develop strong and rewarding relationships with patients, especially in the long-term care setting. For more details on CNA responsibilities, check our sample CNA job description and our CNA resume template.

What Is a Nurse Assistant Called in Different States?

Nursing assistants go by a few names, depending on where in the country you’re located. The requirements to work in this role may differ, so be sure to check with your state board of nursing.

Where Can CNAs Work?

Because of their broad range of patient support, 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.

Best Cities for Nursing Assistants

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the metropolitan areas with the highest level of employment for nursing assistants:

Check out all the CNA jobs available right now to get a better understanding of where you could be employed.

What Are the Basic CNA Requirements?

What do CNAs do in terms of education? There are specialized training and certifications required to become certified nursing assistants. The basic requirement is often a high school diploma and CNA certification from an approved program. If you’re looking into CNA training, consider some of the following factors:

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. What does a CNA do? You’ll be able to find out firsthand. 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 you’re 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 a CNA Expected to Earn?

While this varies by facility, the median hourly pay for CNAs is around $14.50 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?

What is a CNA? The answer is “in demand.” Due to the realities of an aging population, the need for quality care is increasing. Certified nursing assistants are 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, deliver care at the frontline, and help 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 — or as the first step toward advancing your career — you can rest assured that it’s worthwhile. It’s also 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.