Expand your skills as a CNA header image of a CNA drawing blood

Expand Your Skills as a CNA

For many certified nursing assistants (CNAs), it can be difficult to find time to do anything else besides work and home life. Going to school for years to get another medical professional license or degree is sometimes out of reach. Meanwhile, other CNAs like working as a CNA but might be curious about what else is out there.

If that’s the case for you, or you’re looking for other ways to beef up a resume or advance your career as a CNA, there are other options besides years-long medical degrees. Here are some certification options that will help you expand your skills as a CNA without as much of a time or financial commitment.

CNA Specialities and Certifications

Some certification options will vary depending on what state you live in, so check to see if the options below are available to you based on where you live. Different states have different requirements and job titles for nursing assistants. On the same note, your state might offer certifications that few other states do.

That being said, there are several fairly common options for a CNA to advance their skills and find new job opportunities. Here are a few that you might consider.

Medication Aide Certification

In many facilities, you’ll likely find more CNAs around than licensed practical nurses (LPNS) or registered nurses (RN). That’s partly because LPNs and RNs are more expensive to employ and much more difficult to find to hire. This can be a problem when a facility needs someone who knows what they’re doing to handle med passes.

With that in mind, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) has the option available for CNAs to take the Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE). This is a national training program that trains and certifies you to give medications to patients in certain settings.

Your facility may already offer this training option, so check to see if you can do it through them. You have to meet certain requirements, like working for a minimum amount of time as a CNA, and each state will have its own restrictions on where you can work. Becoming a certified medication aide usually leads to a pay bump with the added responsibilities.


Some states offer a CNA II or even a CNA III certification once you’ve completed and passed the basic training to become a CNA. Each level of CNA comes with a small pay increase and more options to where you can work and what you can do. For example, with a higher CNA certification level, you might be able to get the training to run electrocardiogram tests on a cardiac unit. 

Not all states offer CNA II or CNA III programs, though, and each state that does sets restrictions on where you can work based on your certification level. At CNA II, some states will let you run certain tests or change dressings, skills you wouldn’t be able to do with a basic CNA I.

Oregon is one such example. The state offers CNA II certification, and you’ll need it in order to work in any hospital in that state. Meanwhile, Utah only requires one level of CNA training to be able to work as a CNA, and the state doesn’t have CNA II or CNA III certifications.

Phlebotomy Certification

Having a phlebotomy certification can open many more doors, especially if you want to work in a hospital. If you aren’t squeamish around blood and are interested in using needles to draw blood from patients, phlebotomy could be an interesting certification for you. 

Depending on where you live, you can usually find phlebotomy courses lasting a few weeks or months at a local university, community college, or technical school. Usually, you don’t even need any medical experience to get into a training program. 

Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant (CHPNA®)

For nursing assistants with experience working in hospice and palliative care, the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association (HPNA) offers an exam you can take to show your mastery of this challenging field. Certification is voluntary, but it can help you get a better paying position with these types of services because you can prove your mastery over the skills required in this specialty.

There are specific requirements you need to have before you can sit this exam, though. You’ll need to have worked 500 hours in the past 12 months or 1,000 hours in the past 24 months in hospice and palliative nursing under the supervision of a registered nurse. 

Patient Care Technician

The American Phlebotomy Association offers a patient care technician program for current CNAs. For many states, this means you’ll be certified to do tasks like get EKG readings and perform phlebotomy on patients in addition to typical CNA duties.

To be able to take this particular program, you’ll need to be a CNA and have a high school diploma or GED. The course itself will put you through 80 hours of lecture and 80 hours of clinical rotation in phlebotomy.

Other Specialties

Because states differ greatly on what nursing assistants can do and how they can get certified to do different tasks if there’s a certain specialty you’re interested in working in, or you’d like to advance your skills in your current specialty, check if there are certifications specific to that specialty. 

You can either do that by checking through your state licensing board, or you can look up your specialty’s national organization and see what they offer. For example, if you work mostly with patients with Alzheimer’s disease, you can look up how to be a Certified Alzheimer Caregiver with the National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care.

There are many options out there to help you expand your skills and grow your opportunities in the CNA field. You just need to know where to look.

If you’re thinking of getting experience with different specialties or facility types without committing to long-term employment, consider signing up with Clipboard Health to pick up per diem shifts and get the experience and knowledge you want, when you want.