Working as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a Nursing Home

CNA in a nursing home speaking to a resident

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are vital to the functioning of a variety of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and private practices. Another area where CNAs can make an impact is in the nursing home or long-term care facilities.

Are you a compassionate person who wants to make others’ lives better? Did you join the medical profession to make a lasting difference through health? A job as a CNA in a nursing home might be the perfect fit for you. You’ll enjoy a variety of responsibilities and use a variety of unique skill sets to help patients live happy, healthy lives. Plus, a career as a CNA is an excellent starting point if you’re interested in advancing your nursing career even further—it opens a variety of healthcare career opportunities.

Let’s take a closer look at what a CNA does in a nursing home, what kind of educational requirements are needed to become a CNA, and what skills are necessary to perform on the job. That will help you gain insight into this rewarding career and decide whether you’d like to pursue it yourself.

Responsibilities of a Certified Nurse’s Aide in a Nursing Home

The main responsibility of a certified nursing aide or assistant is to provide basic hands-on care to patients. In a nursing home, those patients will typically be elderly patients who may need extra help with their daily care.

Helping With Daily Tasks (ADLs)

Many patients in nursing homes can’t perform standard Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as eating, grooming, bathing, and using the bathroom. Depending on a patient’s abilities, a CNA might need to feed them meals because they need assistance with chewing; help them bathe because they can’t undress; help them walk because they’ve lost mobility. CNAs might also help with activities like shopping for groceries and preparing meals, as well as keeping the facility and room clean and sanitary.

Administering Medications

CNAs commonly administer medications, both orally and intravenously, and make sure that patients remain on the proper medication regimen and schedule.

Checking Vital Signs

Another responsibility of a certified nursing assistant is to measure patients’ vital signs, like blood pressure, temperature, and pulse. CNAs record this information to monitor patient vitals over time and report the results to supervisors if and when action needs to be taken.

Documenting Information in Record Keeping Systems

An important part of the job of a CNA is to keep updated records in the nursing facility’s record keeping system. This information may include vital sign records, changes in behavior or health, changes in appearance, etc. This kind of record keeping is absolutely vital for keeping patients healthy, especially elderly patients whose health can fluctuate relatively quickly.


Because CNAs end up spending so much one-on-one time with the patients under their care, one of their biggest responsibilities probably comes naturally: providing companionship and even friendship to their patients. In some cases, patients don’t have family, or their family cannot be there frequently, so a CNA is often the closest thing a patient has to a friend or family member. The relationships that nursing assistants form with their patients are very much crucial for patient health and well-being.

Certified Nursing Assistant Education Requirements

What kind of education is required to land a certified nursing assistant job? One of the attractive parts of this career is that it doesn’t require a four-year degree or other expensive schooling to break into. Nurses who want to become a CNA will simply need to find a CNA program that meets their state’s particular program requirements and then become certified once completing the program. Information about qualified programs can be found by checking with the state’s board of nursing or the department of health.

Typical CNA programs will require a high school diploma or GED equivalent to qualify, as well as a background check. From there, a program will last between 4 and 12 weeks or so, consisting of classroom instructional hours as well as clinical practice. A six-week CNA program, for example, might be broken up into four weeks of classroom instruction and two weeks of clinical practice.

CNA Certification

After a nurse has completed a qualified CNA program, the next step is getting certified. This involves passing a certified nurse aid certification test, usually consisting of a multiple-choice question test (typically around 70 questions) and a skills evaluation portion (usually a half-hour to an hour in length) in which nurses will demonstrate care skills for instructors. The process for becoming certified varies slightly by state, so be sure to research your state’s CNA competency requirements.

CPR/BLS Certification

Most CNAs also obtain CPR and Basic Life Support (BLS) certifications in addition to their state certification. These certifications cover basic first aid, including chest compressions and defibrillator (AED) training. Not every employer requires that CNAs have these additional certifications, but it’s a good idea for showing basic competency.

In addition to CPR/BLS certification, there are a variety of other specialized certifications that CNAs can get to make themselves more attractive to employers, including nursing homes and hospice facilities:

· Certified Alzheimer Caregiver – this certification is offered through the National Certification Board for Alzheimer Care

· Certified Wound Care Associate – offered through the American Board of Wound Management

· Certified Hospice and Palliative Nursing Assistant – given through the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association

CNA Skills

In addition to educational requirements and proper certification, CNAs should be able to demonstrate a variety of skills—both hard and soft skills—that show they’re able to care for patients in a nursing home. They include:

Well-Versed in Medical Terminology

Of course, certified nursing aides must be well aware of medical terminology in order to communicate clearly and concisely with not only patients, but peers and supervisors. They also need a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology in order to perform their abilities properly.

Excellent Verbal and Written Communication Skills

Much of the CNA’s job involves communicating directly with the patients they’re responsible for, not to mention communicating with other nurses and supervisors. CNAs also take a lot of notes and records, so written communication skills are important, too.


Things can change on a moment’s notice in the world of healthcare, and nursing facilities are no exception. On any given day, a CNA must be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances without losing their cool.

Proficiency in Record Keeping Software

It’s a CNA’s responsibility to upload and maintain records within the facility’s records software, so basic computer literacy and familiarity with record keeping software systems is a must-have.


So much of a CNA’s job involves using empathy—putting oneself into the shoes of a patient and trying to understand their needs and concerns. This is different than sympathy; simply feeling sorry for someone. The best nurses are empathic and try to understand where their patients are coming from at all times in order to inform care needs.


CNAs are absolutely crucial to the daily operations of a nursing home and the well-being of the patients who live there. That’s why CNAs need to be dependable and reliable; lives quite literally depend on it.

Interview and Resume Help From Horizon Healthcare Management

Are you struggling with your CNA job search? Feeling like you’re sending applications into a black hole without ever hearing anything back? It’s time to turn to the healthcare career management professionals at Horizon Healthcare Management. Not only can we help find you CNA jobs you won’t see elsewhere, we help polish your resume to make you attractive to top employers and prepare you for interviews so that you can impress hiring managers. To get help with interview preparation and resume building, contact one of our expert talent acquisition specialists in the healthcare field.

Begin a Certified Nurse’s Aide Job Today

We’re more than a CNA staffing and recruitment agency. We’re a professional healthcare management company focused on matching the right people with the right roles to put quality patient care first. In care facilities for the elderly, our nursing home staffing and recruiting solutions help patients live happier, healthier lives via great care by qualified, compassionate nursing professionals. And you can be a part of that mission.

To learn more about the nurses we place and the facilities we work with, and to find your next opportunity as a certified nursing assistant, contact our expert recruiters today. We look forward to helping you achieve success in your nursing career.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *