Difference Between Certified Nursing Assistant and Nursing Aides

The medical and healthcare fields are booming. Recent nursing graduates and those looking to solidify themselves in a field with significant upward mobility are attracted to the nursing assistant, or CNA career. If you are considering becoming a CNA and are seeking more information online, you have certainly come to the right place! As an RN (Registered Nurse), I have been through the process of obtaining CNA certification. First I took CNA classes, then I studied, took the exam and then received by CNA certification. After 2 years of employment, then I went back to school to pursue a CNA to RN path. Understand that the certified nursing assistant classes are much easier than the decision to become an RN. RN eligibility requirements include a diploma, associate or bachelor's degree in nursing. Perhaps you are considering the same occupational direction. I encourage you to explore the possibilities of starting your medical career with CNA certification.

One question I'm often asked is what segment of nursing you should go into. While this profession offers a wide array of career options, there seems to be mass confusion regarding the difference between Certified Nursing Assistants and Nursing Aides. While these positions may seem similar, several stark differences must be noted. So let's start by defining the positions so you can make an informed decision when looking at certification types.

CNA and Nursing Aide Defined

Essentially, the roles of a certified nursing assistant and a nursing aide are the same except for several primary differences. Both positions are similar in that these professionals work to provide patients with various caregiving procedures while simultaneously supporting nursing staff in daily duties. The primary difference between a certified nursing assistant and a nursing aide is within training requirements and future job prospects. For example, a healthcare company may hire a nursing aide, which typically only requires a high school diploma, who desires to stay in this current position. Those wishing to advance through the nursing field, as well as enjoy statistically higher pay, will undergo coursework training to take and pass national certification for the title of a Certified Nursing Assistant.

Job Functions
The job functions between a CNA and a nursing aide are strikingly similar. In reality, both positions work to assist nursing staff in terms of patient care and gathering vitals. While CNAs receive in-depth practical and theoretical training, nursing aides typically receive hands-on training when hired. Therefore, the differences between what a CNA and a nursing aide are capable of doing is minimal.

Training Differences
While the actual job function of a CNA and a nursing aide are surprisingly similar, the true differences between these positions is the mode of required training. In order to become a certified nursing assistant, students must successfully complete a CNA educational program from an accredited university or vocational training institution. Upon completion, students may then apply and take the national CNA certification examination. Upon successful completion, newly certified CNAs may apply for state licensure and progress their training to higher-paying nursing positions.

While certification is not necessary to hold the nursing aide title, certain states and employers require a basic-level of training before dealing with patients. These programs, typically handled in communication colleges, vocational training institutions or in high schools, last anywhere from six to 12-months and result in a certificate of completion or a diploma. While this training may be necessary, the bulk of education is delivered through on-the-job training.

It's important to note certain health care settings require specific training for nursing aides or CNAs. For example, working in nursing homes or dealing with complex patient care systems typically require advanced-level training and certification for both job titles.

While both certified nursing assistants and nursing aides are essential components of a well-functioning nursing team, whichever job title you choose can determine your future career opportunities and salary. On a foundational level, if you desire upward mobility while being able to step into the position with a vast array of knowledge and experience, go with the CNA position. On the other hand, if you wish to simply learn and engage with a new career without the stress and worry of prolonged training, perhaps a career as a certified nursing assistant is just what the doctor ordered.

Back to Top