The health care industry is filled with a wide range of opportunities, and you don’t need to become a registered nurse (RN) or doctor (MD) to break into the field. In fact, many choose to pursue supportive roles, like a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
A CNA typically works under an RN or licensed nurse practitioner (LNP) to provide hands-on care to patients who need help with their daily living tasks. There are a ton of great reasons to pursue a CNA career. Here are eight advantages of choosing this career path.
1. There’s High Demand for CNAs in the Current Labor Market
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of nursing assistants is expected to increase by 9% by 2028. This due to the aging population who will soon require more intensive care, as older patients typically battle more chronic illnesses. Issues like heart disease, dementia, and other conditions are often complex, and thus warrant close care and monitoring of symptoms by CNAs.
The BLS predicts a particularly high demand for nursing assistants in residential care facilities, nursing homes, and home health and community rehab services. These facilities often house elderly or chronically ill patients who can benefit from the consistent care and attention a CNA provides.
2. You Don’t Need a College Degree to Become a CNA
Unlike RNs, who need to earn at least an associate’s degree, CNAs do not need a college degree to get licensed. The minimum education requirement to take the CNA certification exam is a high school diploma or GED, plus nursing assistant training from an accredited program. The program you choose must be approved by your state’s nursing board as well as the National League for Nursing Accredited Commission (NLNAC).
If you’re planning to use your CNA certification as a stepping stone to an RN job, you can pursue your license and begin working as a CNA while you’re enrolled in a higher education program. Keep in mind that requirements might differ by state, so you’ll want to thoroughly research nursing licensure in your home state as you begin your career journey.
3. It’s the Perfect Job for a ‘People Person’
As a CNA, you’ll interact with patients and colleagues on a daily basis. Most CNA duties involve answering patient calls, ensuring bedridden patients are comfortable, and assisting them with daily living activities, like bathing and using the toilet.
The goal of these tasks is to make the patients as comfortable as possible and to do so, you must have empathy and compassion for their conditions. Patients tend to bond the most with their CNA’s and look forward to the daily companionship they bring.
Additionally, CNAs need soft skills like service orientation, active listening, and social perceptiveness so they can pick up on their patients’ needs, how they’re feeling, and how they might be of assistance to them. These job requirements are a natural fit for a “people person.”
4. You Can Make a Big Difference in Patients’ Quality of Life
The quality of care provided by a nursing assistant can have a profound effect on a patient’s overall well-being. In nursing homes and residential care facilities, many CNAs develop lasting relationships with their patients, as they’re often working with the same individuals for months or years at a time.
Think about patients who might be fearful and isolated from loved ones or elderly patients who are confused about their conditions and health. As a CNA, you can provide the emotional support they seek. You’re not just assisting them in daily activities; you’re having discussions with them, offering appropriate reassurance, and listening to their concerns with an open mind and heart. By ensuring your patients feel safe and comfortable in your care, you’re giving them a better chance at living a happy, healthy life and in some cases, speeding recovery.
5. You Can Work in a Variety of Job Settings
Depending on your preferences and interests, you can work in a variety of job settings as a CNA. According to the BLS, the top employers of CNAs are:
- Nursing care facilities (38%)
- Hospitals (27%)
- Retirement/assisted living communities (11%)
- Home healthcare services (5%)
- Government (4%)
Other common employers of CNAs include clinics, physician’s offices, schools, correctional facilities, and outpatient centers.
6. It Can Be a Stepping Stone to an RN Career
Because CNAs work directly with other healthcare professionals, they gain a broader knowledge of how each role functions. While they might have different job duties, they still understand the basic responsibilities of RNs.
Going from a CNA to an RN can significantly increase your salary, and there’s an even higher demand for RNs (12% projected growth by 2028). Once you’ve earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing, all you need to do to transition from CNA to RN is pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain your state licensure.
7. You’ll Find Tons of Professional Support
Nursing is a difficult career that is both emotionally and physically draining. It helps to have a little support from others who understand the ins and outs of the job you perform every day.
There are over 3 million registered nurses in the U.S., compared to 1.5 million CNAs, so RNs may have a broader selection of professional groups to choose from. However, through organizations like the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, CNAs have access to plenty of professional support as well. This not only helps with networking but also fosters a sense of pride and purpose in your work.
8. It’s Easy to Find Flexible Shifts as a CNA
As a CNA, you’ll rarely be short on opportunities. Because CNAs are in such high demand, you have access to flexible shifts at a variety of different facilities, from residential care communities to rehab centers. You don’t have to work full-time at a single facility, either: Depending on your preferred schedule, you can work part-time or pick up per diem CNA shifts.