Ultimate Guide to Surviving Nurse Aide School

Melissa Mills
September 8, 2022
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Becoming a CNA requires learning lots of technical information and skills in a short amount of time. The stress of preparing for CNA school can be overwhelming, which may make you feel unprepared. Add in the balancing act of work and family life, and you may feel like a failure before school even begins. 

But what can you do to survive your nurse aide training program? We’ve created this list of easy ways to succeed in CNA school and beyond. 

Get Organized

Organizing and prioritizing your work is a skill you’ll need in school and your career. Write down important dates on your calendar, including things like reading assignments, test dates, and lab and clinical days. Being organized keeps you from feeling frazzled and helps you prepare for unexpected things that pop up while you’re in school. 

Introduce Yourself

You might feel intimidated speaking to your instructor if you've never worked in healthcare. All nurse aide instructors are nurses, and some can be very strict. But, connecting with the instructor on the first day is essential to success. The sooner you introduce yourself, the sooner the jitters will subside, and you won’t be afraid to ask them for help. 

Know the Policies

Every nurse aide training program has a list of policies students must follow. Familiarize yourself with all student policies, paying particular attention to absenteeism, inclement weather, and professional guidelines. 

Find a Partner

CNA school is challenging, but having a trusted buddy makes it easier and more fun! Once you find someone, you click with, set up regular times before or after class to study. Be sure to schedule extra time before each quiz or exam and start reviewing for the state exam as soon as possible. 

Ask for Help

There will probably be some things you don’t understand in class, and that’s okay. Speak up as soon as you start feeling confused. This strategy will keep you from getting frustrated and learning concepts over again. Being bold and in charge of your education is part of being an adult learner. 

Make Time for Yourself

You will be tired and stressed if you’re balancing work, family, and school. So be sure to make time for yourself by doing the following:

  • Prioritize sleep - It’s tempting to stay up late studying. However, the CDC reports that adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. So, don’t cut corners when it comes to your sleep needs.
  • Plan healthy meals and snacks - Fast food and vending machines are quick and easy when you don’t have much time. But, eating a healthy diet is critical for your brain health. Try a few of these foods proven to boost brain power when you’re studying:
  • Dark chocolate
  • Berries
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Drink plenty of water- Most people don’t drink enough water. Men need about 3.7 liters daily, and women need about 2.7 liters. Drinking at least eight glasses of water each day is easier to remember this requirement. Buy an insulated cup that holds several glasses of water, so staying hydrated is easy.
  • Care for your body- You will be on your feet for long hours during lab and clinical days. Purchase a quality pair of closed-toe, non-skid shoes that support your feet and back. You should also buy a few pairs of compression socks to ease achiness on long days.
  • Get active- You’ll want to veg out on the couch after a long day of class. However, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity helps keep you healthy and energized. 

Read the Books

Many CNA students make the mistake of thinking they’ll get all the information they need during class lectures. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, so you’ll need to prioritize reading all of the assignments. To stay on top of homework, schedule time for reading each day so the class is more of a review than the first time you hear the information. 

Study Before Tests

Testing is a crucial part of nurse aide training programs. The instructor is not only testing you on the current topic but also training you for the state exam. In addition, most schools create quizzes and tests similar to the state exam, so you can practice finding the “best” answer on multiple choice test questions. 

Practice Your Skills

The skills lab is where you’ll learn how to do hands-on care tasks CNAs perform. You’ll practice skills like hand hygiene, assisting with dressing and bathing, and perineal care. You’ll complete some tasks on mankins, while others will be done on fellow students. Practicing this way can be intimidating for shy students. However, you’ll also need to be the “patient” on the state exam, so practicing in school is a good idea. 

Find out when your program offers open lab hours if you struggle with mastering lab skills. You can practice independently or with your study buddy during these hours. You might also be able to schedule time with an instructor so they can provide feedback on your skill performance. 

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