(found 40 schools, updated in November 2017)
A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is classified as a Direct Care Worker (DCW) in Iowa. In order to work in a Medicare or Medicaid funded long-term care facility or long-term care hospital wing, an individual must be listed in the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry. The Registry is maintained by the Iowa Department of Inspections & Appeals and only applies to CNAs interested in working for long-term care facilities. A Certified Nursing Assistant does not have to be listed in the Registry to work in other types of healthcare facilities. Following are the basic requirements to become a CNA and maintain active Registry status in Iowa.
- 6 Steps to Becoming a CNA in Iowa
- How to Keep CNA Certification Active
- Job Outlook and Salary for CNAs in Iowa
- Becoming a CNA in Bordering States
6 Steps to Becoming a CNA in Iowa
A person must meet the CNA certification requirements in Iowa. There are various routes to getting an individual’s name added to the Direct Care Worker Registry.
Step 1: Review the Routes to CNA Certification
New Certified Nursing Assistants
For new Certified Nursing Assistants who want to work in a Medicare or Medicaid funded long term nursing facility, Iowa’s administrative rules require:
- Completion of a state-approved 75-hour CNA training program, which includes 30 hours of clinical training, and passing the nurse aide competency exam, Or
- If a 75-hour training program has not been completed, the individual must complete a 20-hour on-the-job training program, followed by completion of a training program and/or passing the state exam within six months of employment
CNAs From Other States
Iowa does have reciprocity and recognizes CNA certificates from other states. Out of state nursing assistants need to complete and remit an Iowa DCW Registry application form. They must be in good standing on the out of state Registry.
Registered Nurse or Licensed Practical Nurse
An individual who holds a current RN or LPN license can work as a Certified Nursing Assistant without registration in the DCW Registry. They are listed in the nursing license registry instead.
Nursing students who have completed state-approved fundamentals of nursing courses can apply for placement on the Registry.
A Challenge Examination
Individuals who received training as a nurse aide, orderly or attendant in a program that was not an Iowa state-approved CNA training program will need to take and pass a challenge examination. This also applies to military trained healthcare professionals, foreign trained nurses and others. The Department of Inspections & Appeals will review applications case-by-case.
Unlike other states, anyone can challenge the CNA exam in Iowa without going through training. However, going through a training program is always encouraged to ensure the individual learns the most current information and clinical practices. Training programs and challenge exams are administered through Iowa State community colleges.
Step 2: Select a CNA Training Program
Individuals interested in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant by completing a training program will find numerous CNA classes in Iowa that are offered at community colleges. Several of the community colleges also offer CNA courses at multiple locations, making training programs accessible to everyone around the state. When selecting a program, consider when classes are offered and the schedule, i.e. full-time, part-time, day, evening, etc. The school directory is updated in November 2017.
Find Local CNA Classes in Iowa
|City||CNA Program Provider||Phone|
|Ames||Des Moines Area Community College Ames Hunziker Center|
|Ankeny||Des Moines Area Community College|
|Atlantic||Iowa Western Community College|
|Bettendorf||Scott Community College|
|Calmar||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Carroll||Des Moines Area Community College|
|Cedar Rapids||Kirkwood Community College|
|Clarinda||Iowa Western Community College|
|Clinton||Clinton Community College|
|Council Bluffs||Iowa Western Community College|
|Cresco||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Creston||Southwestern Community College|
|Denison||Western Iowa Tech Community College|
|Des Moines||Des Moines Area Community College Capitol Center|
|Dubuque||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Emmetsburg||Iowa Lakes Community College|
|Fort Dodge||Iowa Central Community College|
|Harlan||Iowa Western Community College|
|Independence||Hawkeye Community College|
|Manchester||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Marshalltown||Marshalltown Community College|
|Mason City||North Iowa Area Community College|
|Muscatine||Muscatine Community College|
|Newton||Des Moines Area Community College|
|Oelwein||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Ottumwa||Indian Hills Community College|
|Peosta||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Sheldon||Northwest Iowa Community College|
|Shenandoah||Iowa Western Community College|
|Sioux City||Western Iowa Tech Community College|
|Spencer||Iowa Lakes Community College|
|Spirit Lake||Iowa Lakes Community College|
|Storm Lake||Iowa Central Community College|
|Waterloo||Hawkeye Community College|
|Waterloo||Hawkeye Community College|
|Waukon||Northeast Iowa Community College|
|Waverly||Hawkeye Community College|
|Webster City||Iowa Central Community College|
|West Burlington||Southeastern Community College|
|West Des Moines||Des Moines Area Community College|
CNA Training Costs
The cost of program tuition, fees, textbook and the state exam are approximately $600 at most community colleges. In addition, the student is required to buy scrubs, shoes, watch and perhaps a few medical supplies. Other costs incurred are for the background check, immunizations and TB test. Total costs, depending on the program selected, will be approximately $750-$1,000.
It takes 2-3 months to complete a CNA program in Iowa, depending on the schedule chosen. Students attending full-time can complete training in approximately one month.
Iowa has a state financial aid program for non-credit programs that are ineligible for federal financial aid. The Gap Tuition Program is a needs-based program, meaning the individual qualifies based on income. Students are encouraged to apply. If they do not qualify, there may be other sources of funding the school can suggest since this is an in-demand occupation. For example, the North Iowa Area Community College developed the PACE pathway program for people with limited income.
One way to get free CNA training is to find employment or get an offer of employment from with a long term facility before completing training. Federal and state law requires the facility to pay for training and testing. A facility will also reimburse the CNA for training costs if the person is hired within 12 months of completing a training course. The reimbursement is prorated based on the number of months of employment.
Students are allowed to be employed in a long-term nursing facility during training. However, Iowa requires students to complete the 20-hour structured training program before having direct contact with residents, except for the contact a training program requires. The 20 hours of training is in addition to the 75-hour CNA training program requirement. The employed student must earn nurse aide certification within 120 days in order to continue employment.
Step 3: Meet School and Program Prerequisites
Every educational facility in Iowa has prerequisites for admittance into the school and the CNA training program. All nurse aide students must pass a criminal record background check. Other prerequisites may include:
- Present documentation of required immunizations
- Present documentation of two step TB testing
- Be at least 16 years old or older
- Apply for admission to the school and then register for the CNA course
- Have a high school diploma or GED (if still in high school, some schools allow enrollment with a high school counselor’s permission)
- Attend an orientation session
- In addition to criminal background check, pass an adult/dependent and child abuse background check
Step 4: Complete CNA Training
The CNA training program in Iowa includes a variety of topics related to the information and skills needed to provide quality resident and patient care services in a long-term care facility. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Basic nursing skills
- Medical terminology
- Infection prevention and control
- Taking and recording vital signs
- Mental health
- Responding to health emergencies
- Assisting with mobility and positioning
- Communicating with clients
- Client rights
- Personal and client safety
Nursing Assistant Training consists of classroom instruction, lab work and clinical practicum. Students work directly with patients and residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Step 5: Pass the Competency Exam
The competency exam consists of a computerized multiple choice test and a supervised skills exam. To pass the multiple choice test and the skills test, the student must earn a score of at least 70 percent or higher on each part of the competency exam. Students who complete a training program will take the competency exam at the end of the program. Individuals challenging the exam can register online to schedule an exam at a community college.
The student is allowed three attempts to pass each exam part. If unable to pass both parts of the exam within three attempts, the student will need to retrain and retest.
It should be noted that Iowa is the only state that allows anyone to take the competency exam, whether or not they have completed a state-approved nurse aid program. There are a variety of test sites throughout Iowa that are provided by community colleges.
Step 6: Get Name Listed in Direct Care Worker Registry
After passing the CNA exam, the nursing assistant training program will notify the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry. After the individual’s name is added to the Registry, the person can work as a Certified Nursing Assistant in any Medicare or Medicaid certified nursing facility. The Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry Application is only completed by an individual who is transferring from another state, or the person’s name is missing from the Registry or personal information needs changing.
How to Keep CNA Certification Active
CNA certification in Iowa is valid for 24 months. To renew certification and keep certification active from period to period requires working in a long term care facility for a minimum of one 8-hour consecutive shift within the 24-month certification period. The hours must be for the delivery of nursing related services. Employers can provide verification of an individual’s employment information online through the DCW Registry website.
If unable to meet the work requirement, and certification lapses, Iowa requires the nursing assistant to challenge the competency exam. People with lapsed certification who wish to become active again do not have to retrain. However, the same rule applies to testing in that the nurse aide gets three attempts to pass the exam. If unable to do so, retraining and retesting is required.
Job Outlook and Salary for CNAs in Iowa
An individual must be listed on the Iowa Direct Care Worker Registry in order to work in a long-term facility. A long-term facility in Iowa is defined as skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes and swing bed units or skilled bed units in a hospital. | See Job Openings
Even if not listed in the Registry, a Certified Nursing Assistant can work for privately owned hospitals, healthcare facilities of all types, privately owned long-term care facilities, home health agencies and private duty clients. Unlike other states, individuals are still considered Certified Nursing Assistants even if they are not listed in the Registry, as long as they have met training and/or state exam requirements for certification. Having CNA certification and a listing in the DCW Registry expands job opportunities in Iowa. | See Job Openings
CNA Salary in Iowa
The average annual salary for an Iowa CNA is $27,310, and that equates to $13.13 per hour. The number of jobs for the period 2014-2024 is projected to increase by 14.6 percent.
|IA CNA Salaries||Empl.||Hourly mean wage||Annual mean wage||Wage percent relative std. error||Hourly 10th % wage||Hourly median wage||Hourly 90th % wage||Annual 10th % wage||Annual median wage||Annual 90th % wage|
|Cedar Rapids, IA||1540||12.92||26870||1.9||10.19||12.56||16.25||21200||26130||33810|
|Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL||2180||12.67||26360||2.0||9.96||12.31||15.45||20720||25610||32130|
|Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA||3400||14.05||29230||2.3||10.75||13.73||18.22||22360||28550||37890|
|Iowa City, IA||1070||14.09||29300||3.8||11.01||14.01||17.83||22900||29150||37100|
|Northeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area||2420||13.09||27220||3.8||10.05||12.34||16.14||20900||25670||33560|
|Northwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area||2360||12.68||26380||2.5||10.11||12.17||16.21||21040||25310||33710|
|Sioux City, IA-NE-SD||1020||12.18||25330||2.9||9.96||11.68||15.54||20710||24280||32320|
|Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area||3720||12.76||26530||4.1||9.97||11.85||17.48||20730||24640||36350|
|Southwest Iowa nonmetropolitan area||1840||13.27||27610||3.1||10.18||12.64||17.61||21170||26300||36630|
|Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA||1030||13.06||27160||1.6||10.25||12.91||16.59||21330||26860||34510|
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