The Difference between a nursing assistant and a certified nursing assistant (CNA)
The primary difference between a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and a nursing assistant lies in their level of certification and training. While both roles involve providing basic care to patients under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs), CNAs have completed a state-approved training program and passed a competency examination to obtain their certification.
A nursing assistant, on the other hand, may not have undergone formal training or obtained certification, and may be limited in their scope of practice as a result. They might work in facilities where they receive on-the-job training, or in settings that do not require formal certification. However, it is important to note that in many places, the terms “nursing assistant” and “certified nursing assistant” are used interchangeably, and it is increasingly common for healthcare facilities to require nursing assistants to be certified.
The certification process for CNAs typically involves completing a state-approved training program, which includes classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. Once the training is complete, the individual must pass a state-administered competency examination, which usually consists of both a written test and a practical skills evaluation. Upon successful completion of the exam, the individual is granted a CNA certification, which may need to be renewed periodically depending on the state’s requirements. Certified nurse assistants are generally authorized to perform a wider range of tasks and have greater job opportunities compared to nurse assistants without certification.
Nursing Assistant vs. Certified Nursing Assistant
While the terms “nursing assistant” and “certified nursing assistant” are often used interchangeably, it is essential to understand the key differences between the two roles:
Training and Education
A certified nurse assistant (CNA) has completed a state-approved training program that typically consists of a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience. In contrast, a nursing assistant may not have undergone formal training and might rely on on-the-job training or experience in the role. Formal CNA training programs generally cover topics such as infection control, patient care, communication, and basic nursing skills.
A CNA has passed a state-administered competency examination, which is usually divided into two parts: a written test and a practical skills evaluation. Successful completion of this exam grants the individual a CNA certification, allowing them to practice in their state. In contrast, a nursing assistant may not hold any formal certification, which may limit their scope of practice and job opportunities.
Scope of Practice
CNAs typically have a more extensive scope of practice compared to non-certified nursing assistants. They are authorized to perform a wider range of tasks and responsibilities, such as taking and recording vital signs, administering prescribed treatments, and even assisting with certain medical procedures under the supervision of a nurse. Non-certified nursing assistants might be limited in their responsibilities and may be restricted from performing certain tasks that require certification.
CNAs generally have greater job opportunities and may be more sought after by employers, particularly in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities that require a higher level of patient care. Non-certified nursing assistants might find employment in settings where formal certification is not mandatory or where on-the-job training is sufficient. However, many healthcare facilities are increasingly requiring nurse assistants to hold CNA certification.
Continuing Education and Career Advancement
CNAs may have more opportunities for continuing education and career advancement. They can pursue further certifications or training, such as becoming a Certified Medication Assistant (CMA) or pursuing a nursing degree to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). Non-certified nurse assistants may have fewer options for career growth and might need to obtain certification or additional training to advance in the field.
It is important to note that the specific differences between nursing assistants and certified nursing assistants can vary depending on the state or country’s regulations and requirements.