Learn about how CNAs can make a difference in the lives of their patients and the advantages of becoming an CNA.

Working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) can be challenging, but rewarding in ways that most careers are not. As a CNA, you will spend more time with patients than almost every other healthcare provider, helping them to recover while promoting their comfort and healing. 

People who are especially suited for working as a CNA are those who are compassionate and enjoy working with people. Most of a CNA’s job includes helping those who are at their most vulnerable, and having a caring attitude is essential. Those who work as CNAs must also be prepared to sometimes help people with their more intimate tasks, such as providing for their hygiene needs and assisting them with toileting. Someone who thrives on the idea of helping elderly or impaired patients and making a difference in their care will excel as a CNA.

Work as a CNA is typically a very secure field, with all careers in the healthcare field projected to grow as healthcare advances enable people to live longer lives and the resulting aging population requires more and more care. CNA jobs are projected to experience significant growth in the foreseeable future.

What Does A CNA Do?

CNAs have a variety of tasks, depending on where they work. The core element of a CNA’s job is to help people with nursing care that does not require a nursing license to perform. This can include taking vital signs, drawing blood, assisting a registered nurse (RN) with a procedure, or helping patients with activities of daily living that they may not be able to do themselves. Sometimes patients who are more affected by age or their medical condition may need help dressing, bathing, walking, changing position in bed, or even with toileting themselves. CNAs help patients with these tasks to allow RNs to focus on the aspects of patient care that require a license to perform.

A CNA’s role is suited to many types of healthcare environments. Nursing homes use CNAs more than most other clinical facilities due to the greater level of help their patients need with most tasks. CNAs also play an essential role in hospitals, physical rehab centers, and addiction recovery centers.

CNAs vs RNs

A CNA’s role differs from an RN’s in that a CNA can only perform clinical tasks that do not require a nursing license. Tasks such as administering medications, assessing patients’ medical status, changing wound dressings, and performing nursing procedures all require a nursing license. While a CNA cannot perform these tasks, they may assist RNs with aspects of these tasks by holding supplies, helping position a patient, or providing support to the patient while the RN is performing a procedure. CNAs play a vital role in supporting RNs in their work.

CNAs vs Nurse Aids

A CNA and a nurse aid play essentially the same role in most healthcare settings. While there is typically no significant difference in the work they perform, CNAs have undergone a certification course that nurse aids have not. This allows them better chances of getting employment in the area they want to work in and can be especially helpful in getting initial employment in the healthcare field.

How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant

Becoming a CNA typically requires a high school diploma or a GED and completion of a CNA course. CNA courses are not particularly long and typically take 4-12 weeks to complete. Completing a CNA course is not essential to become a nursing assistant, and some companies will provide on-the-job training. Other companies, however, will require certification as a CNA as a condition of employment. 

A Certified Nursing Assistant’s Role in Substance Rehabilitation

In substance addiction centers, CNAs play an important role as a member of the healthcare team. Taking patients’ vital signs, assisting patients with hygiene needs when applicable, and helping patients with other needs or answering their questions are all important parts of what a CNA may do. CNAs may also help with any other tasks that the RNs need help with that do not require a nursing license. CNAs provide essential support to RNs, helping them in efficiently and effectively caring for those recovering from addiction.

Available Positions at The Recovery Village

The Recovery Village has several facilities throughout the United States, and we are always looking to add new professionals to our team of industry-leading experts. In addition to positions at one of our facilities, jobs are also available nationally through our telehealth platform. Our evidence-based approach to addiction treatment has made us one of the first organizations to be designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Substance Use Treatment. We are accredited by The Joint Commission, and our staff collectively holds over 3,000 professional credentials.

a man wearing a blue and white striped shirt.
Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
a man with a beard wearing a suit and tie.
Medically Reviewed By – Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN
Benjamin Caleb Williams is a board-certified Emergency Nurse with several years of clinical experience, including supervisory roles within the ICU and ER settings. Read more

US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Nursing Assistants and Orderlies.” September 1, 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020.

RegisteredNursing.org. “CNA Classes & Programs.” September 22, 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020.

CareersinHealthcare.com. “Nurse Aide vs CNA, What’s the Difference?” October 5, 2018. Accessed October 3, 2020.

Red Cross. “What is a CNA?” 2020. Accessed October 3, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.