Here is a secret: instructors don’t go to a special class to teach them what is on the CNA state test or how to teach CNA skills to you!
In many cases, instructors (especially in test preps) won’t know any more about the test than you do…so many make it up as they go along! Scary? You bet! This is why there is so much misinformation out there. One teacher will teach things one way, while another student will learn something totally different! Yet both students are in the same testing center the same day and both pass, even though they have done the skills in two different ways. How is that possible?! With many different schools teaching lots of different ways to do things, online videos that demonstrate things completely differently than you were taught and helpful friends and family that tell you that you are doing things wrong, it is easy to get lost!
The CNA skills portion of the exam will be observed by an RN with many years of experience. They understand basic nursing principles and infection control practices. They can see past the technical details of the skill and are able to judge what truly matters. To ensure uniformity in the testing environment – to make sure everyone is tested by the same standards – each state has developed a specific set of standards that must be met for each skill. This is often called the Clinical Skills Checklist because it includes points that must be performed by each student and checked off by the evaluator when they have been performed. The Clinical Skills Checklist specifies that the torso must be washed during a partial bed bath…HOW you wash that torso is up to you! Students get all mixed up here, thinking that there is only one way to perform the technical aspect of the skill. There are very few points that grade the HOW, and they are specified on the clinical skills checklist! Since students are not familiar with infection control procedures or basic nursing principles, they are unsure of how to perform the skill without violating these technical rules. This is where a good instructor will come in. But that instructor would have had to have done their homework and be familiar with basic nursing principles, infection control procedures AND the clinical skills checklists! If any of these are missing in your instructor, you may run into trouble!
So, let me arm you with some information that may help you out. If you know where to look, you can see each point that the evaluator will be grading on. This ensures that you are at least performing the required technical components of the exam. If you are unsure whether you have been taught correctly, look at the standards for that skill and judge whether you are performing all the points listed. This can save you lots of heartache and anxiety before and during the exam!