How To Become a CNA While Attending High School

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5 percent rise in demand for certified nurse aides during the years 2021 and 2031. As a high school student, you can benefit from growing demands for CNAs and start a rewarding career right out of high school. Maybe your aim is to pursue a career as a registered nurse. CNA training will place you ahead of the curve and increase your chances of acceptance to the best nursing schools. The training covers the foundational knowledge needed to become a registered nurse while providing the qualifications needed to begin working alongside nurses in acute and long-term care. Whatever your career goals, it is possible with planning and commitment to achieve success. It starts not only with the CNA classes, but also with the other classes and programs you pursue as a high school student. Health, anatomy, and science classes are some practical and necessary courses. Your activities outside of school are of equal importance. Any time you commit to the acquisition of experience within the health care industry will clear the path for making your dream a reality. The following information provides some insight that you can use to make a few adjustments to achieve your goal.

Consult With Your School Counselor

One of the best places to start is with your high school counselor. He may be able to provide resources such as programs for juniors and seniors to begin career training and earn certification. Your counselor will also be in a position to recommend courses of study and show you the best route to success.

Research the Field

High school is the place to explore your career options. Nurse assisting is the first step on the nursing career ladder. The position is grueling for many, and the turnover rate is higher than many jobs because the responsibilities are physically and mentally challenging. The satisfaction of helping others is the mainstay for many who remain in the profession. Do some research before you dive in to gain a clear understanding of the job and explore other related jobs, such as licensed practical nursing or registered nursing to map out a career plan or exit route if you need to. Also consider the job outlook in your area and the pay rate. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to choose the right program.

Complete the Prerequisites

Make sure you meet all the prerequisites for enrolling in a program and entering the healthcare industry. These will differ by the program and your state’s requirements. High school CNA programs are typically available for juniors and seniors. They might commence in the 11th grade and conclude in the 12th grade. Work on keeping your grades up as they may determine your eligibility for the program. If you’re considering nursing school after completing your CNA certification, this will be the time to also enroll in advanced placement classes to earn college credit and save money. Advanced placement classes cover the same material as the college equivalent but are free for high school students. Anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, chemistry, microbiology, algebra, introduction to psychology, and nutrition are just a few of the common college prerequisites for health care professions.

Update Your Immunizations

Many CNA programs include a practical component at a health care facility. Clinical partners may require students to up-to-date with their immunizations. Start your immunization program early as some require more than one shot spaced over a specific period. Common immunizations include varicella, mumps, measles, pertussis, rubella, hepatitis B, tetanus, tuberculosis, influenza, and the recent COVID-19.

Get Certified

If your high school CNA program does not include first aid and CPR certification, you should consider an outside source such as the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Certification is required for employment as a CNA and admission to a nursing school. The small investment of time and money will give you a head start. Note that certification must be keep current and so renewal every year or two years is mandatory for health care workers.

Learn Your State’s CNA Requirements

CNA requirements vary by state. For instance, some states allow minors (16 year olds) to train, test, and work with parental consent. For other states, you must be at least 18 years to obtain certification. The contact hours for classroom and clinical training also varies by state; some programs may be a short as 75 hours, while others require 175 hours of training. All non-challenge states require candidates for certification to complete a program approved by the Board of Nursing. Your research should cover requirements for the clinical experience (background check and disqualifying felonies) nurse aide testing and eventual certification.

Also see: CNA Requirements by State

Enroll in a CNA Training Program

Find a nurse aide class in your area. State-approved classes are available at community colleges, nursing homes, hospitals, private institutions or even at your local high school. Verify that the program is approved by your state’s department of health as only graduates from those programs are eligible to take the nurse aide evaluation to obtain certification. Note: Some program facilitators may request a permission form signed by your parent and school counselor as a prerequisite for enrollment. Also note that a high school CNA program is your best bet if you’re searching for a free option.

The course schedule should not collide with your school schedule as you’ll need 95-100% percent attendance to classroom and clinical training in order to graduate. Areas of study include human anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues, nutrition, vital signs, infection control, safety and emergencies, communication skills and residents’ rights. The clinical rotation provides hands-on experience where you’ll work directly with residents at an approved facility under the direction of a Registered Nurse.

Related: CNA Classes by State

Take the Nurse Aide Competency Evaluation

Upon successful completion of the training program, you are now eligible to apply to sit for your state’s nurse aide evaluation. The test evaluates both your theoretical knowledge and your skills in order to determine your work readiness. You’ll need to schedule time to study your notes and practice your skills in preparation for the exam. Once you pass both components of the exam and the accompanying background and drug tests, you’ll obtain certification to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Prioritize Your Mental and Physical Health

Start prioritizing your mental and physical health well before you begin your first job in healthcare. The duties of a CNA will challenge both. The visible reminders of pain, suffering, and death are not for the faint of heart. This is where research is critical and a commitment to stay the course. Take time to check in with yourself, to review and recommit to your goals. Maintaining a balanced mind and body is a crucial part of enduring long days and nights on the job.

Your Career as a Certified Nurse Assistant

If you’re under 18, your state’s laws may have restrictions on the number of hours you can work. Some hospitals and nursing homes may also have policies as it relates to hiring minors. Therefore, it’s essential that you consult with long term care facilities, hospitals, home health agencies and your state’s board of nursing before you pursue CNA certification; it is one way to increase your chances of employment. Another way to catch employers’ attention is to offer to volunteer at local hospitals and nursing homes.

The CNA certificate has an expiration. Again, it depends on your state. The expiry is one year for some and two years for others. The licensing authority will send a notification of your upcoming renewal. However, it is your responsibility to know the expiration date and renew on time to maintain your CNA certification. If you submit for CNA license to obtain extra points for admission to a nursing program, you may have to maintain the certification throughout the nursing program – whether it is one year or four years. Completing of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) is mandatory for renewing your certificate in many states.

You can become a CNA while attending high school with a little preparation and a lot of commitment. As a Certified Nurse Aide, you’ll gain valuable experience that will prepare you for a career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN).

Also see: Financial Aids & Grants for CNA’s & CNA Salaries by State


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