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Certified Nursing Assistant Requirements in Iowa

Iowa Certified Nursing Assistants must complete training programs and then pass two evaluations. After meeting initial requirements, they are added to the state registry. CNAs can expect multiple background checks (including criminal history and abuse registries) at the employment level.

The Department of Public Health is working on an initiative that may result in changes to the education and credentialing process.

Select an Iowa Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Topic:


Training and Examination Eligibility

Nursing assistants must complete programs that meet state and federal requirements. Iowa programs consist of at least 75 hours with at least 30 hours of clinical work (http://iwin.iwd.state.ia.us/iowa/OIC?action=license&licid=0000000090). The requirement for total hours is at the minimum federal level while the requirement for clinical hours is set higher.

Click Here to learn about Nursing Assistant programs as well as other entry to nursing and health care programs in Iowa.

Iowa nurse aides who are hired prior to certification will first complete a 20-hour course designed to prepare them for resident contact. They will then complete the required 75 hour course. Nurse aides who are hired after completion of the 75 hour course are expected to demonstrate the competencies demonstrated in the initial 20 hour-course.

In some cases, a candidate may be approved to challenge the nursing assistant examinations based on other equivalent training (https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/ACO/IAC/LINC/07-30-2008.Rule.481.58.11.pdf). Institutions that have been approved to conduct competency testing also have the responsibility of determining eligibility.

Some Iowa institutions offer 'refresher courses' for individuals who completed nursing or other qualifying training in the past.

Iowa does not require professionals who hold current licensing at the LPN or RN level to be on the registry in order to work as nurse aides (http://dia.iowa.gov/DCW_FAQ_02202012.pdf).

The Examination Process

Prospective CNAs must pass two separate tests: One measures knowledge, the other practical skills. Iowa Valley Community College District describes the skills test as a “realistic nursing assistant assignment” (http://www.iavalley.edu/ivce/certification/direct_care.html). There are multiple institutions that have been approved to provide CNA competency testing in Iowa. The Iowa Workforce Information Network notes that they are mainly community colleges (http://iwin.iwd.state.ia.us/iowa/OIC?action=license&licid=0000000090). There are opportunities to take the knowledge exam in oral format at multiple Iowa sites.

Individuals who are registering for refresher courses or exam-only may register online much as if they were registering for a traditional course. Procedures will vary, but individuals should be prepared to provide documentation of eligibility. A prospective CNA can contact individual institutions to find out examination schedules and registration.

Self-pay candidates should be prepared to pay $50 for the written test and $85 for the skills test. However, aides who have been offered nursing home employment can expect to have their fees paid for them; those who are hired in the months afterward after can have costs reimbursed on a prorated basis.

North Iowa Area Community College notes a maximum three examination attempts (http://www.niacc.edu/community-and-continuing-education/continuing-education/health-education/long-term-care/nurse-aide-skills-testing/). After repeated failures, a candidate is required to retrain.

The Application Process

It is not always necessary to apply directly to the state after completing requirements; the registry receives information about candidates who have been successful on the skills evaluation.

In some cases, though, application is required. Prospective CNAs will find the required paperwork on the Direct Care Worker Home Page (http://dia.iowa.gov/page14.html).

CNAs no longer receive registry cards in the mail. They may visit www.dia-hfd.state.ia.us to print documentation. The Iowa CareGivers Association has prepared a resource to assist CNAs in using the online system (http://dia.iowa.gov/113383%20Direct%20Care3.pdf).The Registry directs CNAs to call (515) 281-4077 if they are unable to print at a library or other site.

Out-of-State CNAs

Iowa offers reciprocity to CNAs who hold current active credentials in other states. Out-of-state nursing assistants will use the registry application form. They are directed to include a copy of their certificate if there is one available. Otherwise, they will make sure that the original state of certification is noted on the application form. If the nurse aide has been hired, the hiring agency will complete a section of the application.

The Iowa Direct Care Registry will carry out the certification verification process. Typically this is accomplished within one to two business days.

Application materials are available online (http://dia.iowa.gov/DCW_FAQ_02202012.pdf). The Registry is willing to mail applications but notes that this will add to the timeframe.

Maintaining Registry Status

Status depends on performing nursing-related duties for at least one eight hour day during each 24 month period. The Registry notes that if a nursing assistant is not listed as work-eligible, it may be that employment has not been reported http://dia.iowa.gov/DCW_FAQ_02202012.pdf. An aide who has been working at an assisted living or intermediate care facility may not have creditable hours as nursing-related activities are often interspersed with other duties such as doing laundry, facilitating activities, or transporting clients. The Registry has provided a list of frequently asked questions that addresses continuing eligibility (http://dia.iowa.gov/DCW_FAQ_02202012.pdf).

Additional Information

The Department of Inspections and Appeals can be reached by telephone at (515) 281-4115. Certified nursing assistant information is available on the Direct Care Worker Home Page (http://dia.iowa.gov/page14.html).

There are impending changes in the education and credentialing process. Aides, and prospective aides, may wish to visit the site of the Direct Care Workforce Initiative (http://www.idph.state.ia.us/directcare/Pathways.aspx). They can sign up for e-updates.

The Iowa CareGivers Association is an additional professional resource (http://www.iowacaregivers.org/). Iowa CareGivers can be reached by telephone at (515) 223-2805.

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