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What to expect in the CNA classroom

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes are vocational education and can be quite different from traditional academic courses.

The Structure of a CNA Classroom

Attendance is typically mandatory, and students spend long hours learning hands-on skills. Professionalism is important, as is at-home study.

The Practical Training: Hands-on Practice

A large part of a CNA’s job is working directly with patients: Taking vital signs, helping patients turn over in bed or helping patients with move. Thus, CNA classrooms involve large amounts of hands-on training. Students will practice on each other, on mannequins and on real patients at the end of the class. The CNA certificate exam includes a hands-on portion, so this practice is extremely valuable.

Understanding the Medical Terminology

In a hospital or nursing home, medical terminology is vital for communicating with other staff. CNAs will study anatomy and physiology terms like epiglottis and nephron plus nursing vocabulary like Fowler’s position and medical asepsis. Students will use these terms during their hands-on practice and clinical hours and throughout their careers.

Revision and Information: Your Homework

CNAs must learn a large amount of information, often in a short time. Most programs supplement classroom instruction with at-home work like reading a textbook, watching skills videos or memorizing medical terminology. This homework may or may not be graded, but is vital for students who want to succeed as a CNA. Assignments will relate directly to the CNA test and future job requirements and will never be pointless busywork.

Working with Patients: Clinical Hours of Study

In most states, CNA students are required to work directly with patients while under the supervision of licensed staff. The exact hours needed will vary by location, but most programs offer roughly 50 hours of supervised clinical time, typically split into eight-hour shifts. Usually, these hours occur in a long-term nursing facility rather than a hospital, because students need time to learn in a low-stress environment.
During clinical hours, students will refine hands-on skills, and may feed, bathe, dress or groom patients. Because clinical time takes place with real patients, students will be required to act professionally, cover tattoos and remove facial piercings.

Attendance Required at Your CNA Classes

In order to take a state’s licensing exam, potential CNAs are required to attend a certain number of classroom and clinical hours. Most programs base their classroom structure on these requirements, meaning attendance is not optional. Missed days must be made up. Some programs offer make-up days, but some do not allow students to miss any hours for the entire program.

CNA classes are challenging on an academic and personal level, but they prepare students for the realities of working in the healthcare profession. While some students may feel overwhelmed by the heavy volume of information and the required hours, they can take comfort in knowing that everything they’re doing will contribute to the care of future patients. CNAs must be tough, well-educated, dedicated and caring, and CNA programs help foster those traits from the first day of class.

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