What Do You Learn at CNA School?

Certified nurse aides, or CNAs, provide care for patients in their homes or in health care institutions under the direct supervision of a registered nurse. As a licensed member of a health care team, a CNA assists patients with daily living activities, and provides comfort as needed.

Becoming a CNA can be an effective way to gauge your interest in pursing further nursing education. State-approved CNA training programs entail at least 75 clock hours of instruction, not including time spent at home reading CNA books in preparation for a state competency exam. The different training and certification requirements for each state can be found on the RegisteredNursing.org website.

CNA Job Description

In some professions, you might learn responsibilities on the job, but CNAs learn job responsibilities in a nurse aide training program, as explained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. Your instructor, a registered nurse, presents modules outlining each responsibility, and you follow along with your CNA book. Some of the responsibilities that you learn about in the classroom could include, but are not limited to, bathing, dressing and feeding patients.

You learn how to help patients walk safely, a task known as ambulation. You also learn the tasks you are not supposed to do, as dictated by the nursing board, such as giving injections or medication. CNA instructors administer quizzes and tests to confirm comprehension of what you read in the CNA book and learned in class.

Terminology and Equipment

You will be expected to perform skilled tasks, such as taking patient vital signs and transferring patients to wheel chairs, your first day on the job. You also will be expected to know what a nurse is talking about when she asks questions or explains tasks using specific medical terminology.

To prepare you for employment, you will learn, and be tested on, medical terminology in your CNA course. Your instructor also teaches you how to use medical equipment such as a blood pressure cuff and gauge, how to set up and break down wheel chairs, and how to adjust hospital beds in the classroom laboratory.

Hands-on Clinicals

Nursing boards require CNA license candidates to complete hands-on training, commonly called clinicals, in a licensed health care facility. Most CNA clinicals take place in nursing homes, although where you complete them ultimately depends on the health care institutions with which your CNA school is affiliated.

During the hands-on portion of the training, you are required to wear a uniform and work alongside the facility's staff as if you were an employee. Your CNA instructor provides you with a checklist of required hands-on experiences that you must complete on-site to pass the course.

Where to Learn the Trade

CNA programs accredited by your state board of nursing are offered by a variety of institutions that include nursing homes, nursing employment agencies, hospitals, community colleges, the Red Cross, and private nurse aide training schools. Training course prices vary widely, and it is advisable to shop around among programs in your area. Parents with children of high school age who are interested in nursing may wish to enroll in their school district's program, if one is available, to jump-start their career planning efforts.