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Certified Nurse Aide Requirements in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania CNAs, or Certified Nurse Aides, must complete criminal background checks and meet training and examination requirements. The Pennsylvania nurse aide registry is maintained by Pearson VUE. There are several agencies involved in CNA training, examination, and oversight.

Select a Pennsylvania Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) Topic:

Eligibility and Training Requirements

The Pennsylvania Department of Education may authorize student/ graduate nurses to test as CNAs. Individuals who do not have qualifying nursing education must complete state-approved nurse aide training programs. Pennsylvania-approved programs are at least 80 hours in length and include at least 37.5 hours of clinical practice. The Department of Education has provided a list of approved programs (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/nurse_aide_training_program/7685). Prospective students can also view examination pass rates by program.

Click Here to learn about Nurse Aide programs as well as other entry to nursing and health care programs in Pennsylvania.

The state also sets minimum requirements for entry into CNA programs. Prospective CNA students must be at least 16 years old and must be able to read, write, and perform basic mathematics in the English language. They are required to have physicals before enrolling in state-approved training. They will need to be free of communicable diseases.

Prospective students must have fingerprint-based criminal background checks prior to enrollment. They will use the approved vendor, Cogent. They may schedule by calling 1-888-439-2486 or visiting Cogent on the web (https://www.pa.cogentid.com/index_pdeNew.htm).

Prospective students will select the Department of Education as the agency that will receive the report. The Department of Education website has a link to a document called "Procedural Process"; this provides details about the background check process. Applicants can find a nearby Cogent fingerprinting site by clicking on their region of the state (https://www.pa.cogentid.com/ohio/DPW/DPW_map/DPW_Regions_Clickable.html).

Not all convictions are disqualifying. After the results have been reviewed, the prospective student can call the designated staff member at 717-772-0814 to hear the eligibility decision. An official letter will be mailed. The student will need to provided the approval letter to the selected school.

The Examination Process

Pennsylvania nurse aides take the National Nurse Aide Assessment Program, or NNAAP examination. It consists of two parts: a written (or oral) component and a practical skills component. Initially, candidates will take both the same day. However, a candidate who fails one evaluation will not need to retake the one that was passed.

Candidates will be evaluated on five nursing aide skills. The candidate must demonstrate appropriate hand hygiene. At least one skill will require the candidate to take and record a measurement (for example, blood pressure or weight). Other skills are randomly selected and will change from one evaluation to the next. Candidates must pass all five tested skills.

The written test is multiple choice. There is an oral version that also includes ten reading comprehension questions. Test takers who want the oral examination are to note it on their application forms.

In Pennsylvania, the NNAAP is administered by Pearson VUE and the American Red Cross. Candidates will send their registration materials to the American Red Cross, but will find many resources, including candidate handbooks, on the Pearson website (http://www.pearsonvue.com/pa/nurseaides/) Candidates who are testing at regional sites can visit the Pearson website to find a list of locations and upcoming test dates.

Test takers generally receive their score reports at the test site. Candidates are allowed a maximum of three attempts before they are required to retraining. Anyone who fails an evaluation three times is required to enroll in a training program. Absences also count against the candidate.

First time test takers will pay $102. Individuals who need to retest will pay $70 for the skills test. They will pay $32 for either the written or oral knowledge test. Individuals who are employed by nursing homes can expect their training and testing fees to be paid for them. Those who are employed by nursing homes in the months after completing requirements are eligible for reimbursement. CNAs with reimbursement questions are directed to the Department of Human Services at 717-772-2570.

The Application Process

The first application is at the student level; the second is at the examination level. The examination application is the last application required for registry placement. Pearson will report examination success. Candidates who pass both the skills and knowledge evaluations are automatically added to the registry.

Candidates may receive their examination applications from their training programs. Those who do not can download them from Pearson (http://www.pearsonvue.com/pa/nurseaides/) or request them from the American Red Cross. Applicants who have questions about completing the paperwork are directed to call the Red Cross at (800) 795-2350.

Student nurses have an additional step. They will need prior authorization from the Department of Education. They will find the required paperwork on the DOE website (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/nurse_aide_training_program/7685). The authorization must be sent with the application to the Red Cross.

Endorsement Applicants

CNAs who are active on other state registries are eligible for endorsement. They must be in good standing according to federal standards; they cannot have findings of abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of property. They must also have recent work experience.

The Pearson Vue site includes a verification form that must be sent to the state of certification or registry. Pearson has also provided a list of out-of-state registries (http://www.pearsonvue.com/pa/nurseaides/).

Background checks are required at the employment level. Individuals who have lived in Pennsylvania less than two years are required to have both federal and state background checks. They may be employed up to 90 days pending receipt of the background report, provided that they swear that they have not been convicted of a disqualifying offense (http://www.aging.state.pa.us/unit_4__criminal_background_checks/616720).

Renewing Lapsed CNA Certification

Certification lapses if a nurse aide goes 24 months without working in the field. However, Pennsylvania will allow a lapsed nurse aide to take the qualifying test without retraining. This is the case whether the credential was held in Pennsylvania or in another state.

If the nurse aide does not pass on a first attempt, however, it will be necessary to complete a training program. At this point, the nurse aide will follow the same procedures as other newly trained nurse aides.

Additional Information

Information about CNA training is available on the site of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/nurse_aide_training_program/7685). Prospective CNAs can email ‘ra-natcep at pa.gov’ or call 717-772-0814. Office hours are 9:00 to 5:00.

Pearson VUE can be reached at 800-852-0518.

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