Exam Overview for the Nursing Assistant/Nurse Aide Exam
Healthcare knowledge progresses rapidly. Therefore, states now require minimum practice standards for persons entering the healthcare professions, including nursing assistants/nurse aides (NA). Those requirements include formal training and a recognized certification process. But certification is more than just a required process; it is also long overdue, formal recognition for a group of healthcare professionals who provide hands-on care for the ill and the elderly.
Prior to 1987, there were no standards in nursing homes and the quality of care was in question. As the public began to hear horrible stories in the media about the abuse and mistreatment of residents in nursing homes, the government decided to step in and take action. The result was the Omnibus Budget and Reform Act (OBRA), which required the implementation of standards for nursing homes that receive federal funds such as Medicare or Medicaid. The act also emphasized residents’ rights, registered nurse (RN) presence, and improved food and medical services for patients, along with better maintenance and housekeeping. Due to these new standards, states now individually regulate the training and testing of certified nursing assistants (CNAs). In August 2008, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) became the exclusive owner of the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program (NNAAP) and the Medication Aide Certification Examination (MACE). NCSBN develops examination programs and administers them through a contract with a national testing service.
The information in this article is based on the national standards for CNAs, but each state specifies the amount of training, and what certification and practical skills exams CNAs must pass. Therefore, you will also need to contact state or local agencies to find out about the specific requirements in your state.
Characteristics of Nursing Assistants/Nurse Aides
Nursing assistants work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home care, often having more contact with patients than other members of the staff. Their duties depend upon their workplaces, but the job emphasis is always on the patient’s physical and emotional well-being, including reporting observations of changes in patient health status to the nurse. The work can be challenging, especially when dealing with difficult patients, but most CNAs get great satisfaction from their work. Common characteristics for this profession include dedication, patience, compassion, and reliability. Another key element is the ability to communicate and work well with others. CNAs must also be physically able to perform a job that may require standing for a good portion of their eighthour day, as well as lifting and moving heavy objects and equipment.
CNAs must participate in regular inservice education and performance reviews as mandated by OBRA. OBRA requires long-term care facilities to provide a minimum of 12 hours of inservice each year that may consist of new skills or a review of existing skills, depending upon the facilities’ need. OBRA also mandates retraining and the passing of a competency exam for CNAs who have not worked for two consecutive years.
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