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.

27. What is the Certified Nursing Assistant Registry ?

The certified nursing assistant registry, which is available from each of the United States, affords both CNAs and their employers a measure of peace of mind. Unlike some employees who provide care for older Americans and those in need of medication management, there are required curriculum’s and other needs that CNAs must accomplish prior to being certified.

So, what benefits does the registry offer? There are several, but chief among them are the higher credibility for both providers and job seekers, the ability to show a clean working record, and the fact that the process is reasonably transparent.

  • Transparency
    Various state agencies monitor the certified nursing assistant registry for each of their locales. If any complaints or other issues have been raised against a provider, it’s listed on a website after it has been investigated. For family members of aging relatives or those who may need additional care, this provides peace of mind in knowing that their CNAs have been properly vetted.  Individual states provide these lists to anyone who makes a call or visits the website.
  • Higher Credibility
    The additional training that certified nursing assistants receive is borne out by the fact that they have to be certified by the state in which they want to work. This additional exam, if passed, gains them a listing on the certified nursing assistant registry for that state. Since the curriculum is standardized, prospective employers and clients know exactly what minimum skills the CNAs possess. This enables quicker job application process because employers don’t have to check references for the certification. It, also, demonstrates the extra time placed on training and ability to do more work.
  • A Clean Working Record
    It can be difficult to get a good reference from prior employers, even as a certified nursing assistant. But a clean working record is critical to working with less mobile populations, especially in the more lucrative fields like certified nurse assisting. The higher wages are guaranteed for those with good records who can demonstrate experience, and this can mean several more dollars per hour compared to home health aides.

To be more clear, that’s roughly several thousand dollars per year, and the knowledge that employers can guarantee that you’ve been certified, makes the registry a great resource for prospective CNAs.

28. How Many Years is My CNA License Valid for?

Those who possess their CNA licenses are expected to renew their licenses at least once every two years. Again, different states may have different regulations and rules, though.

29. How Can I Re-Certify My CNA License?

Firstly, in order to re-certify a license it’s a legal requirement that the license holder must have worked as a CNA at least once in the last 24 months. If not, then they will have to sit the test once again. Assuming the holder fulfills that requirement then they must follow the following steps to re-certify their license:

  1. The Nurse’s Aide Registry Renewal Form must be obtained and all personal information should be written down.
  2. Get an employer from the past 24 months to fill out the second part of this form.
  3. Sign and date the application only after the employer has completed the form. Then send it away to the relevant place for a specific state. The necessary location can be found on an individual state’s board of nursing website.
  4. It should take about two weeks for the renewal to be completed, and some states allow people to monitor the progress of their renewal application online.

30. How to Check the Status of Your CNA License?

This is simple as all it takes is a quick call to the Nurse Aide Registry for the relevant state. Then it’s just a matter of asking about the status of one’s license. However, it’s also possible to just go to the website and check the status of one’s license on there; although not all states have this facility.

31. How Can I Renew an Expired CNA License?

It gets quite complicated for those who have expired licenses as each state has different procedures. However, the first step is easy as it’s just a matter of contacting a specific state’s licensing board. After this it depends on the rules of the state and how long the license has been expired for. If a license has been expired for quite a while then the individual may be forced to retake all of their exams once again, as well as paying a pretty substantial sum to act as a fine.

In most states nurse aides must renew their certification every two years. Without re-certification an aide will no longer be able to work in a nursing home or as an aide. For CNA’s that work in a nursing home, the employer usually covers the renewal cost. Aides that are not employed must pay for their own re-certification unless their former employer has a clause in their employment contract that states they will cover the first renewal for an aide that was trained in their facility.

When you first work toward becoming a nurse aide you will complete training according to the regulations of your state. Some states require college courses which can take four or more months. Other states have a shorter training period, especially if an employer is providing the training. Almost every state has colleges that offer certified nurse aide or assistant courses. After finishing these courses you will be required to take an exam. The exam is broken into two parts a written and a hands on portion. To gain certification you must pass both portions.

Your certification will be issued by the state. Your name will be placed on the certified nurse aide registry in your state as soon as your results are recorded and submitted. If your employer has provided training they will also pay for your certification. If you attended classes through other means you will be responsible for the payment which is due when you arrive at the testing center.

When you need to re-certify things are a little different. You will receive notification from the state before you need to renew your license. You will also receive information on where you can go to pay for the re-certification. You can choose to pay the fee online in many states in order to avoid late fees.

If your employer paid for your training and certification your renewal notification will be sent to that employer in most states. If you receive the notification you should take it to your employer. Nurse aides that work for nursing homes are not responsible for paying their certification fees unless they are between jobs.

It is important to keep your certification up to date. If you do not then you can receive fines or worse. It is against the law to work in any state as a certified nurse aide without certification or with a lapsed certification.

33. How Much Does It Cost to Re-Certify My License?

This will, of course, depend entirely on the state in question, but these days it should cost between $120 and $150 on average to go through the process of re-certifying a license. But it costs even less if this process is done online through the board of nursing website for a specific state.

34. Do I Get My CNA License Number Online?

Yes, a CNA number can usually be found online. This is just a case of accessing the CNA registry for a certain state, entering the required personal information into the website, submitting the data, and then receiving the license number.

35. How Do I Renew My CNA License Online?

The main benefit of renewing online is that most states provide a dramatic discount on the price of renewing a license, which is because they don’t have to deal with paperwork and the storing of said paperwork.

Renewing a CNA license online is just a matter of going to the website of the specific state’s board of nursing and then following the instructions presented there. Most websites have easy-to-follow instructions and simple guidelines for submitting their applications online. As of this writing, nearly every state has facilities for submitting applications for renewals online.

36. What Causes My CNA License to be Revoked?

There are certain issues that can cause your certification to be revoked:

Failure to follow HIPPA regulations could get your certification canceled. HIPPA is a privacy act that could mean you have let private information slip out. The least amount of damage from this would be job loss; however, depending on the case you could also lose your certification.

Any breaking of health regulations can be cause for job termination and loss of certification. The state and federal government take CNAs positions very seriously because they must offer a standard of care. Breaking the standards of care, if you are proven at fault, can lead to revocation.

Elderly or patient abuse will result in a loss of certification. At any time you are a subject of a criminal or civil case your certification will be called into question, and most likely terminated.

If you lie on your entry form to become a CNA it can result in a termination of your certification. For instance, if you have a criminal record and lie about it this could result in a loss of certification.

Each state is different, but in general, if you have or become convicted of a crime you will lose certification- even if it is something like a DUI.

A lapse in employment as a CNA can lead to a loss of certification. If you have been unemployed in this industry for more than five years the state or employment you seek may require you to obtain a new certification. The good news is if you retake the exam and pass you can be recertified. Most lapses in work do not require you to retake the entire certified nurse assistant program again. Your state can tell you how long you can be away from work as a CNA before needing to retake the exam.

37. What Can I Do If I Lose My CNA License?

If a CNA license has been lost but the number is needed for an employer then this can usually be found online, as outlined above. However, if the license is forcibly taken away then that will depend entirely on the state and the reason for losing it. It’s best to contact the individual state’s board of nursing for more information on individual circumstances.