The Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) role is an accessible career opportunity that provides training, certification, and employment in rapid turnover time — such as 16-day CNA training programs.
CNA programs not only offer an opportunity for paid learning, but reduce barriers to employment such as requirements of higher education, income, and time, said Kyle Bryan, UPMC Manager of Recruitment for the north central Pa. region.
At the start of a CNA program, each participant interviews for a position that would be reserved for them until the end of their training and certification. Once they finish and pass, they have a job. Plus, the program itself is paid.
“We are playing them a salary while they sit here in class…they earn while they’re learning here,” said Erin Ulrich, RN, Regional Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program (NATCEP) Coordinator & Primary Instructor, UPMC Senior Communities in North Central Pa.
The program eliminates expenses for everything from the certification test cost to travel expenses to the program setting, according to Ulrich and Bryan.
UPMC holds about 7-8 training programs per year.
Most CNAs work in senior communities and assist the elderly with “daily living” activities–check-ins, meals, bathing—according to Ulrich. They may also work in long-term care, personal-care, or assisted living facilities. Employment in long-term care typically require a CNA certification; others may offer on the job training.
The role focuses upon “non-traditional, bedside healthcare,” said Ulrich. CNAs get to work directly with patients and exercise a caring nature, according to Ulrich. CNAs often work alongside other CNAs and nursing staff as well, creating a tight-knit community.
“They [CNAs] get a good connection with their residents and they kind of get to become part of their families as well,” said Ulrich.
The CNA role also offers opportunities for career growth, including the potential for higher earnings. The CNA role has its own career ladder advanced through specialty trainings. However, a CNA may also be interested in pursuing an RN or LPN degree; and they may be eligible for UPMC discounts on additional schooling.
UPMC frequently sees many CNAs continue their education and certifications, whether in the CNA role or in another nurse speciality, said Bryan.
The program is also quite simple a chance to believe in themselves, according to Ulrich. “It gives them and build on that confidence that they can go ahead and live up and achieve those dreams and goals.
“It works and once you get in it, you just you you feel like I can do this and…I have people that want to support me,” said Ulrich, who worked her way from CNA to LPN to RN through her time at UPMC Muncy.