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How Long Does it Take to Earn a CNA License?

by Karen Farnen

A CNA license is a quick way to try out your aptitude for nursing. Certified nursing assistants care for patients in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and hospitals. Helping with daily tasks such as bathing, feeding and grooming, they often form close personal bonds with their patients. Typical CNA training takes approximately six weeks, according to ExploreHealthCareers.org, but you can also find programs that take more or less time.

Program Basics

Each state sets its own educational requirements for CNAs, who are called nursing assistants or nursing aides in some states. CNA education is geared toward preparing students for the state competency exams that are a prerequisite to registration. Although some high schools offer nursing assistant programs, CNAs usually complete a post-secondary certificate in a vocational school, nursing home, hospital or community college. The American Red Cross also offers training for certified nursing assistants.

Length of Training

The total time for CNA training depends on the particular program and your status as a full-time or part-time student. According to NursingAssistants.net, some full-time programs take as little as three weeks, but a similar part-time program may take about eight weeks. Six-week programs typically begin with two weeks of classes and follow up with a month of clinical practice, according to ExploreHealthCareers.org. The training requirements of your state also affect the length of CNA programs. In California, for example, CNA training must last for at least 150 hours, according to California Community Colleges. Red Cross training takes 160 hours, with 60 hours of class and lab work and 100 hours of clinical training.

Curriculum

The CNA curriculum covers basic nursing techniques and ways of helping patients with daily tasks. For example, students learn how to assist patients with eating, bathing, dressing and using the toilet, as well as how to take blood pressure, pulse and temperature. They also study medical vocabulary, infection control, emergency care and points of law relating to caregivers and patients. In addition to theory and lab classes, CNA trainees complete clinical rotations in nursing homes, where they observe other nurses and aides and practice their patient-care skills.

Licensing Requirements

After completing a state-approved study program, CNAs must pass state exams and fulfill any additional state requirements to become registered. Similar to other nursing exams, the CNA exams include a written portion and a clinical test. For the practical test, you'll perform patient care on another person playing the role of a patient. Typical tasks may include taking vital signs, giving a bed bath and transferring a patient to a wheelchair. Some states require you to be at least 16 or jump through other hoops to earn CNA registration. These other requirements may include a criminal background check, fingerprinting or a drug check.

Career Facts

You can earn a CNA license relatively quickly, but the pay isn't very high. Nursing assistants earned average hourly wages of $12.32 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the equivalent of $25,620 in full-time annual pay. On the bright side, a job will probably be waiting for you when you become registered. The bureau predicts a 20 percent increase in jobs for nursing aides and orderlies between 2010 and 2020, compared to 16 percent on average for all jobs.

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