STNAs, or state-tested nursing assistants, care for elderly or infirm patients in hospitals, nursing homes, or patients’ own homes. Sometimes referred to as certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, they must pass a state-issued exam. STNAs assist nurses in a variety of tasks and serve as primary caregivers for some patients. The job offers many challenges and many rewards.
State-tested nursing assistants help patients with personal care and grooming, including bathing, dressing, toileting, hair care and skin care. They assist patients with walking, transferring in and out of wheelchairs and changing position in bed. They feed patients that cannot feed themselves. They monitor patients’ vital signs. STNAs that work in patients’ homes may also prepare meals and do light housekeeping tasks. In addition to providing physical care, nursing assistants develop relationships with patients and provide companionship and emotional support. They document the care they provide in patients’ medical charts.
STNAs work in hospitals and nursing homes. They often work in fast-paced environments and spend most of their time on their feet. They must be able to lift heavy patients. Some STNAs work for home health care agencies and care for patients in their own homes instead of health care facilities. Those working in patients’ homes must work well independently because often no other professional caregivers are available to provide assistance.
Education and Training
State-tested nursing assistants complete a course of education that includes classroom study and clinical work experience. Subjects studied include health, nutrition, the normal aging process, body mechanics, documentation in medical charts, infection control and patient rights. Students also learn practical skills, such as how to monitor vital signs, transfer and position patients and bathe patients. Educational programs include a clinical component in which students care for patients in a nursing home or other health care facility under the supervision of instructors.
Federal law requires nursing assistants who work in nursing homes to become certified or registered with the state in which they wish to work. To become certified, nursing assistants must complete at least 75 hours of education and pass an exam offered by the state. Some states may have additional requirements. Federal law does not require home health aides to become certified or registered with the state, but many home health agencies prefer to hire only state-tested nursing assistants.
According to Salary.com, in November 2009, state-tested nursing assistants earned a median salary of $24,790. Salaries vary depending on how many years of experience an STNA has, the type of facility she works in and her geographical location.