If you decide to go into nursing, specifically becoming a CNA, I’m sure you’ll have a load of questions running around your mind. The nursing field can be very rewarding, yet it’s still something you need to think about before undertaking, and it’s natural to have some questions about it. We’ve made a list of some of the most frequently asked questions we receive via the website or email, most of which are from beginners or from people still thinking about becoming a CNA.

1. What exactly is a CNA?

CNA, which stands for Certified Nursing Assistant, is a person who cares for people with a broad and varying range of health care need. Usually, a CNA will work alongside an RN (Registered Nurse) or an LPN (Licensed Nurse Practitioner) and/or a Doctor.

2. As a CNA what will my basic job duties be?

As a Certified Nursing Assistant you must first and foremost, be in generally good health yourself. You will be required at times to stand for long periods of time, and you’ll need to lift things, move things around, including the patients! As a CNA you must have reasonable senses i.e.: You’ll need to be able to see and hear quite well. Things like Reading, Writing, and the ability to do basic math and calculations are also a pre-requisite.

3. How do I become a CNA?

To become a Certified Nursing Assistant you’ll need to complete and pass your CNA Exam. Before this, you’ll need to actually do a CNA Training course. Each different State in the US have different pre-requisites for this, and most have a minimum amount of hours that you’ll need to complete. This does consist of both clinical and classroom time however, so your time learning will be split between both. After training is complete, you’ll take the State CNA exam and will be required to pass at least 80% of it in order to become certified. CNA training can be found for free in some states, or as a paid course. Some employers will pay for it for you, and some courses can be found online… have a look around.

4. I have taken the CNA exam a couple of months back, but I am still not listed in the registry. How to proceed?

You need to contact the institution where you have taken the course, or ask to which association they have sent the paperwork regarding your case. If you have taken the exam, you need to contact the examiner and ask for further details.

5. The registry holds information that I am an “inactive CNA”, but I am currently employed. How to treat this?

In case you are employed for payment in the sector of nursing services, and we do not hold record of this, you need to submit copies of your social security card, proof of employment, return address, and a telephone number used daily. When it comes to proof of employment, it can be the following things. 1.) A verification letter from an employer, verifying dates of work, position held and duties; 2.) copy of a W-2 form; 3.) copy of pay stubs. You need to afterwards submit all of this to: Department of Health and Senior Services, Attn: Health Education Unit, P.O. Box 570, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Everything will be verified and you can expect a letter from the HEU regarding our decision within 7-10 working days.

6. Where can the CNA exam be taken?

If you are currently employed in a form of nursing facility, you have to check with the director of nursing, or the nurse in charge, to see if the facility is approved as a training agency and you are able to take the exam there.

In case you are not employed, or you have no intentions of being employed, you need to contact an area vocational technical school or community college, which has been approved for offering the CNA course, within your current locale.

7. How do I know I am qualified to be in a CNA class?

The qualifications read as follows:

  •  18 years of age need to be covered, unless you are enrolled in a High School Class operating with Healthcare teachings.
  •  You should not be listed on the Department of Health and Senior Services employee disqualification list, or EDL.
  •  You should not be found guilty of certain regulation infringements.

8. From the date of hire, how long can I be employed as a CNA without taking the exam?

You have up to 4 months of time from the initial hire date in order to take the classes, get certified and be placed on the register.

9. I am still uncertified as a nursing assistant. Which services am I eligible to provide without covering the exam?

You can only provide services in which you have been officially found competent.

10. I am currently a nursing student. Can I become a CNA?

Yes, but you will need to take the final CNA exam. If you want to be approved for it, you will have to submit a copy of your personal transcript, showing completion of Fundamentals of Nursing, along with a clinical rotation for passing grade, copies of your social security card, return address, and a phone number, where you can be reached any time of the day. After the whole of the information has been confirmed, you will be informed within 7-10 working days.

11. When will my license as CNA expire?

In order to remain active, you are obligated by Federal regulation to work at least 8 hours for pay, within the sector of nursing services without having a 2 year break. If you have a break of 5 years when it comes to employment, the certificate will be deemed expired. When this happens you need to either prove employment or retake the whole CNA course.

12. How to Maintain the CNA License Active?

According to Federal regulation, you need to work at least 8 hours for payment, in the sector of nursing services, without having a 2 year break, in order to be active. In case your status shows inactive, this means that we do not have any employment history for you in the past 2 years.

13. If the register says that I am an inactive CNA, how do I get active again?

In case we do not have records of employment when you have worked in the sector of nursing services, you need to submit copies of your social security card, proof of employment, return address and a telephone number you use daily. The proof of employment might include: 1.) Letter from an employer, stating your dates of employment, held positions and duties; 2.) A copy of an W-2 form; 3.) a copy of pay stubs.

In case you have not been employed, you need to take the exam. You have to submit copies of your social security card, return address and the phone number for that address. You will receive a response within 7-10 working days.

14. In order to keep the CNA license active, do I require 12 hours of in-service each year?

If you are working in a long-term care facility, they are required to provide you with 12 hours of in-service. If you are not employed in such a facility, it is not obligatory to have these hours to remain active.

15. Is there an essential difference between an inactive and expired license?

Your certificate as a CNA is deemed inactive in case you have a break of 2 years in employment. For your certificate to be expired, you need to have a 5 year break in employment. In case of inactivity, you only need to challenge the exam. If you are expired, you will have to take the course all over again.

16. If I have been into private work, will this help my CNA certificate remain active?

This is possible. You will have to supply a proof of employment, which might contain : 1.) Letter from an employer, stating your dates of employment, held positions and duties; 2.) A copy of an W-2 form; 3.) a copy of pay stubs, or 4.) a letter from the Private Attorney you are working for, which verifies your duty towards them.

17. In case I am unable to read properly, can the examiner read the contents to me?

Yes, the examiner is eligible to read to you in a neutral tone the information, which you require for the exam.

18. In case I fail the exam, can I take it once again the very same day?

Yes, provided that the examiner is agreeing to this fully.

19. I have a Certified Medical Assistance certificate. Can I work as a Certified Nursing Assistant without being certified as a CNA?

No, you are required by law to have a CNA certificate if you wish to work as one.

20. Will I undergo a background check before I can become a CNA? – What kind of stuff will they be looking for?

Yes, you will be required by law to undergo a background check before working as a CNA. The only thing that definitely will not harm your chances of becoming a CNA are minor traffic offenses. Everything else will be looked at, but this does not necessarily mean if they find anything that you’ll have no chance of becoming a CNA, it just depends on the offence.

 21. I have tried and failed the CNA exam. How to proceed?

If you have received a letter of approval from the given office to take the exam, you might only have one chance to do so. In case you fail, you need to take the CNA course.

22. I have taken the written or practical CNA exam and I have failed. Is there a chance to re-take it?

If you have gone through the full course and have failed one of the two portions, you have up to two additional times in which you can try it, in a period of 90 days since the initial failure. If you do not take the test again within this time, you need to re-take the course.

23. The facility where I have been taking the course, has lost its privileges to offer CNA, but the course is still in progress. What happens to us students?

When the letter from the Health Education Unit comes, and notifiec that the facility is now under ineligible status, there will be a form enclosed, carrying the name “CNA Class Roster for Ineligible Facility”. The form must be completely written in and sent back to the HEU. Any students, which have begun their class prior to the date of ineligible status, are obliged to continue their education.

24. Can CNAs accept gifts?

There are times when you will become very close with some residents and even their families.  During the holidays, near your birthday, or for no reason at all, the family or resident may give you a gift.  Some facilities do not allow aides to accept gifts from residents, while others allow gifts as long as the gift is not cash based.

It is up to you to decide sometimes.  A small, inexpensive gift is usually well within any standards and morals of most nurse aides.  It is hard to refuse a gift without hurting the feelings of some resident or families, so be careful how you refuse.  If the gift is very expensive or seems to be an heirloom of some sort, it may be best to speak with your supervisor and give the gift to them until they can speak with the resident or the resident’s family.

Cash should always be refused.  Even if you are in need, taking any monetary gifts is unprofessional.  A cash gift that is left with no name on it in your belongings is hard to refuse (and this has happened to some aides), but in a situation where a resident is trying to ‘tip’ you, a polite ‘no thank you’ is acceptable.  Remind them that it is your job to care for them and that while you enjoy your job, taking money from them would be wrong.  If pressed, let them know that it is against policy to take any cash gift.

Some families will bring snacks, fruit baskets, or other food items as a gift for all of the aides on a floor or unit.  This is hardly ever refused or against facility policy.  Handmade items, like knitted hats, scarves, throws, or any other crafted gifts are also usually acceptable.

A good rule of thumb is that if someone with dementia offers you a gift, take it, then put it back in the resident’s room before the end of your shift.  If a family member brings a fruit basket or other food gift or even flowers, accept and place the gift in the nurses station for everyone to share.

Personal thank you cards are always okay to accept.  Just check inside to be sure that the resident isn’t trying to slip you a tip.  You can always suggest that anyone trying to give you such a gift donate the amount to a charity.

25. Can CNAs work independently?

Technically a certified nurse aide can provide certain services without being employed by an agency. As long as the CNA is not caring for wounds, administering medication, or performing any duties that is within the scope of a nurse’s practice, the aide can provide services. Most often this is known as ‘sitting’ or ‘companion’ services.

Aides can help private residents with dressing, some hygiene, and other activities of daily living without being employed by an agency. However, working for an agency provides aides with health benefits in some cases, fill in aides when time off is needed, and one very important thing – liability insurance.

If an aide is working for a private client, yet is not employed by an agency, in the event of an accident or accusation of abuse, there is no one to help the aide unless he or she hires an attorney. Not every aide accused of abuse is truly guilty, but without an agency to help investigate claims, there is no real defense for the independent aide.

Most aides that provide independent care services will advertise on such sites as Craigslist. This can be dangerous for clients. Without a proper background check, there is no way to know if an aide is still certified, has a track record of abuse, or has ever even been certified.

In another side of the issue, aides can find that they are in danger when a potential client contacts them via websites like Craigslist. A person that contacts the aide and sets up a meeting may not really be disabled. Going to a home of a stranger is always dangerous when meeting ‘blind’.

Before meeting with anyone at their home, meet in a public place. Do this several times and if you feel uncomfortable, leave. When going to a private residence, make sure someone you trust knows where you are going, when you are expected home, and how to contact you at all times. You could also take someone with you to be even safer until you know and trust the client.
An even better solution? Find an agency and provide services through them!

26.Where Can I find free CNA Classes?

If you have decided that you want to become a CNA, then you may have already begun to search for classes to take in order to become certified. Many of these classes are offered by local community colleges, though some can be pricey. If you are on a tight budget there are options for low cost or free CNA training, along with certification.

You may apply for a grant or financial assistance through your college. Depending on your income level the classes may be free. You may be responsible for any materials needed, such as books or uniforms. If you receive a large cash grant, you may purchase all needed items from your grant if you decide to have the grant sent to you instead of the college. College classes can take as many as four months in some states. Check with your local college to find out how long their CNA term lasts. You will also need to pay for your own testing and certification.

The most popular avenue for free CNA classes is through an employer. A nursing home or other healthcare center will offer CNA classes to new hires at a low per hour rate, then the pay rate will increase when and if the hires pass their certification exam. The employer covers the cost of all materials and the exam/certification. As long as the CNA is employed by the facility that trained them the employer will cover the costs of license renewal.

You can find employer based classes by checking your local help wanted classifieds or by calling local nursing homes. If you find employment with a nursing home that offers such classes, some may also pay for your education towards your LPN if you work for a certain period of time, then commit to stay on with the company after your nursing training is complete.

There are some online training classes, though many states do not recognize CNA training from online outlets. Your best course of action is to avoid online training unless it is provided as an addition to classes your enroll in at a local college. Online training is no substitute for physical learning such as clinical’s.

Your local chapter of The Red Cross may also offer free CNA training. You may call the local chapter to find out if classes are offered. Most Red Cross chapters are listed in the Yellow Pages of your city or town’s phone book. You can read more about free CNA classes here.