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What Is an LNA?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2014
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A licensed nursing assistant (LNA) is an allied health professional who provides basic nursing services. LNAs can work in hospitals, clinics, and long term care facilities and they may also provide home health services to patients who need assistance with daily tasks at home. In order to work as an LNA, it is necessary to attend a training program and successfully pass an exam administered by a government regulatory agency.

An LNA can work under the supervision of a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. These nursing professionals communicate with patients, provide assistance with personal care, and perform nursing tasks like checking vital signs. They can also help patients become ambulatory again, monitor for signs of bed sores and similar complications, and answer patient calls to provide other forms of assistance.

Different facilities have different types of nursing needs. LNAs must be flexible and willing to work in diverse settings. Good candidates for careers in nursing are comfortable in chaotic environments, capable of handling multiple tasks at once, and highly observant. Nurses act not just as health care providers but also as patient advocates and educators. Excellent communication skills are also very important.

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To become an LNA, it is necessary to complete a nursing assistant program. Technical and trade schools may offer such programs, as do colleges and universities with nursing programs. Once a program has been successfully completed, a nurse can accumulate the practical experience necessary in order to apply to take the LNA exam. If the nurse passes the exam, he or she will be admitted to practice as a licensed nursing assistant.

Regulators may have continuing education requirements that must be satisfied in order to maintain licensure. In addition, it may be necessary for people who are re-entering this nursing career to take additional coursework. These requirements are designed to ensure that nurses are providing the highest level of care, in accordance with the most recently adopted standards and practices. Nurses can also keep up through trade journals and membership in professional organizations.

Pay and benefits for an LNA vary, depending on experience and work setting. There are a number of employment options available, including employment with a traveling nurse agency, working for a home health agency, freelancing, or working through a specific hospital. Membership in professional organizations can make an LNA more employable and potentially increase the available salary and benefits such as retirement and pension accounts.

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wavy58
Post 6

@StarJo - I am currently studying for my LNA license, and I did the research on the salary before I started. Depending on where you live, you can make from around $24,000 to $29,000.

The average salary of an LNA in the U.S. is $26,000. The lowest paying state is Georgia, which averages from $8 to $10. California is the highest paying state, ranging from $10 to $14.

Yes, pay does grow with experience. Typically, an LNA who has worked nearly a year earns from $8 to $10. After 5 to 9 years, this pay grows to $13 and then to $15 with 20 years.

StarJo
Post 5

I am interested in pursuing a career as an LNA. I have heard that they make pretty good money. Does anyone know what the average salary of an LNA is?

I know that it would increase with experience. Right now, with my part-time job at the mall, I make about $10 an hour. I want to make sure before I pursue this career that it will be more lucrative than my current job. Any information you have would be appreciated.

OeKc05
Post 4

I remember when my school had what they called shadow day, where each student chose a professional in their field of interest to follow around and observe. I shadowed an LNA.

I watched her as she went from house to house. The first house had a newborn with special needs. She stopped by to check its vitals. From there, we went to a young man who was recovering from a wreck. She helped him dress, brush his teeth, and make lunch. Next, we went to an old woman who needed help with everything, right down to holding the measuring cup that her medicine came in.

I saw the wide range of things that an LNA must do each day. It’s not just stop and go; she told me that later on that same day, she would be returning to the man’s house to help him with dinner, and she would go back to the old woman to check her blood pressure.

shell4life
Post 3

The best thing my friend ever did for herself was decide to become an LNA. It gave her confidence and a purpose, and it got her out of a bad situation.

She had been trapped inside of an abusive marriage. She did not make enough money to survive on her own. Once she completed her exam and got her license, she began saving up for her escape. Before long, she got out of there and supported herself.

The level of understanding, care, and support that an LNA must give to others provided her with a sense of meaning to her life. It fulfilled her as a person. I know that she is motivated to continue her education and progress to even greater levels.

MissDaphne
Post 2

@SailorJerry - Yes, LNA and CNA (certified nursing assistant or nurse aid) are the same thing. I think they're just called different things in different states, sort of like LPN (licensed practical nurse) or LVN (licensed vocational nurse).

Tell your niece to go for it, as long as she won't be neglecting her academics. She can later get into a CNA to RN or CNA to LPN program (these are more common). If she wants to go to nursing school, she'll need a job that's compatible with her class schedule, and CNA/LNA can be helpful for that because health care always has night and weekend shifts (they pay better than day shifts, too).

Exposure to the health care field through working as a CNA will help put her classes in context and she may make valuable contacts for when she is ready to pursue a nursing career. She's lucky that her high school has this program. It takes a lot of maturity for a high school student to buckle down and get ready for a career like that, but the rewards are worth it. (And if she hates being a CNA, she'll know not to bother becoming an RN before she pays for the classes and can study radiology tech or something instead!)

SailorJerry
Post 1

Is an LNA the same thing as a CNA? I have a niece in high school who's interested in nursing as a career. She doesn't have the money to go to college right away, but her high school has a CNA program. Would this be a good way for her to get started?

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