What do you learn at CNA school?

Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, provide care to patients in their homes or in health care institutions under the direct supervision of a registered nurse. As a licensed user of a health care team, a CNA helps patients with activities of daily living, and with all the comforts as necessary. Becoming a CNA can be an effective way to measure your interest in pursuing further education in nursing.


In some professions, it is possible to learn job responsibilities, but CNAs learn job responsibilities in a nurse aide training program. Your instructor, a registered nurse, presents modules that describe each responsibility, and you follow them with your textbook. Some of the responsibilities learned in the classroom could include, but are not limited to, bathing, dressing and feeding patients. You will learn how to help patients walk safely, a task known as ambulation. You will also learn the tasks you are not supposed to do, as dictated by the nursing board, such as the application of injections or medications.

Terminology and equipment

You are expected to perform specialized tasks, such as taking vital signs of the patient and transferring patients to wheelchairs, on your first day of work. You are also expected to know what a nurse is talking about when you ask questions or explain tasks using the specific terminology of the doctor. To prepare for employment, you will learn, and be tested in, medical terminology in the CNA course. The instructor also teaches you how to use medical equipment such as a bracelet and blood pressure gauge, how to set up and fold wheelchairs, and how to adjust hospital beds in a lab class.

Clinical practices

Nursing boards require CNA licensed candidates to complete practice training, commonly called practice, at an authorized health center. Most practices will take place in nursing homes, although where you complete them will ultimately depend on the health institutions with which your CNA school is associated. During the practical part of the training, you will be obliged to wear a uniform and work together with the staff of the institution, as if you were an employee. Your CNA instructor will provide you with a list of required practical experiences that you must perform in place to pass the course.

Where to learn the trade

CNA programs accredited by the state board of nursing are offered by a variety of institutions that include nursing homes, employment agencies, hospitals, community colleges, the Red Cross, and private nursing assistant training schools. The prices of training courses vary widely, and it is advisable to take a walk through the programs in your area. Parents with high school-age children who are interested in nursing should encourage them to enroll in their school district’s program, if one is available, to launch their career planning efforts.