What is an LNA? Licensed Nursing Assistant Guide

LNA wearing purple scrubs

Table of Contents

Do you want a flexible and growing career in healthcare? With the demand for nursing assistants projected to rise by at least 1 million new jobs expected to be added to the direct care workforce from 2021-2031, becoming a licensed nursing assistant (LNA) is an excellent way to kickstart your professional path and ensure you have access to jobs. 

LNAs, sometimes called nursing assistants, work under the supervision of a nurse to provide direct or assistant care to patients. As an LNA, you can anticipate performing basic nursing tasks like taking vital signs and primary care tasks such as assisting patients and residents with dressing, eating, and bathing. 

While LNAs do not have the same qualifications as nurses and require supervision, licensed nursing assistants are valued healthcare team members with opportunities for growth if they desire. If this sounds like an exciting and versatile nursing role, keep reading to learn what it takes to become a licensed nursing assistant. 

What Does the LNA Abbreviation Stand for in Medical Settings?

patient putting together a head puzzle in nursing home
LNAs often assist patient who have dementia or memory troubles.

In medical terms, LNA stands for licensed nursing assistant. LNA is a type of licensure for nursing assistants recognized in New Hampshire and Arizona; each state requires an aspiring LNA to complete a distinct nursing assistant competency training program, which we will get into soon. 

So, what is an LNA? An LNA is a healthcare professional who assists nurses in caring for patients. Like certified nursing assistants (CNAs), LNAs can work in a variety of medical settings, reporting patient status to registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The following are some of the most common healthcare environments where LNAs can find work:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Adult daycare centers
  • Home healthcare
  • Private practice

What Are the Typical Job Duties of an LNA? 

One of the unique advantages of working as an LNA is that you can directly impact patients’ lives. LNAs interact with patients daily and aid with personal care. In this way, licensed nursing assistants play a vital role in patient support and treatment. Furthermore, many LNAs form relationships and bonds with their patients because they directly communicate with them daily. This interaction may contribute to an LNA’s ability to give compassionate and empathic treatment, leading to better patient care outcomes. 

With this in mind, some of the primary responsibilities of an LNA in a medical setting include the following: 

  • Taking and monitoring a patient’s vital signs 
  • Assisting patients with basic care like going to the bathroom and bathing
  • Serving a patient food and water
  • Transitioning a patient from a bed to a wheelchair or helping a patient to change positions while in bed
  • Cleaning a patient’s room 
  • Providing companionship to patients
  • Assisting with communication between patients, family members, and doctors

It’s important to note that different facilities have various nursing demands. For this reason, LNAs should be versatile and ready to work in multiple medical settings. 

What’s the Difference between LNAs and Other Nursing Assistants? 

Licensed nursing assistants are similar to certified nursing assistants because they often share the same duties. For example, a certified nursing assistant is also called a licensed nursing assistant in New Hampshire. The titles merely refer to the same position by different names. However, in Arizona, the difference lies in the fees, background checks, and other requirements to receive LNA licensure.

How Can You Become an LNA in New Hampshire?

In New Hampshire, to become an LNA, you must complete a nursing assistant competency training program or complete 200 hours of nursing assistant-related work in New Hampshire. After completing the course, you will need to pass a competency test and provide the NH Board of Nursing with a copy of the graduation certificate and the results of the competency testing. Finally, you must also clear a criminal background check to obtain an LNA license. Fees for entering LNA courses, obtaining an LNA license, and passing criminal background checks can vary. It’s preferable to get clarification from the New Hampshire Office of Professional Licensure and Certification if you have any queries or concerns. 

How Can You Become an LNA in Arizona?

Unlike in New Hampshire, an LNA in Arizona is a separate license to a certified nursing assistant credential, as it involves a more rigorous application process, more fees, and extra oversight from the Arizona Board of Nursing. However, both CNA and LNA candidates in Arizona will attend the same course and take the same State Board of Nursing Competency Exam. Additionally, in Arizona, a CNA and an LNA will perform many of the same nursing duties and collaborate closely with other nursing personnel to ensure patients receive appropriate care. Arizona provides two categories of nursing assistant credentials as of July 1, 2016:

  •  Registry CNA refers to a certified nursing assistant.
  •  LNA refers to a licensed nursing assistant. 
  • An Undeclared CNA or UCNA is a nursing assistant with a CNA certification issued before July 2016.

Although CNAs existed before July 1, 2016, in Arizona, the current CNA, also known as a “Registry CNA,” is a new form of certification. Registry CNAs have fewer certification standards and are subject to less Board scrutiny. Moreover, Registry CNAs are not required to have a criminal background check performed. On the other hand, an LNA in Arizona requires a criminal background check and is subject to more oversight by the Board. Likewise, the Arizona State Board of Nursing has broad power over any conduct by an LNA that the Board perceives as unprofessional or unsafe. Finally, an “Undeclared CNA” may decide to convert either to a Registry CNA or an LNA. Meanwhile, Undeclared CNAs are recognized as LNA-equivalents because they met the same rules for LNAs before the new “Registry CNA” certification came to be. 

The takeaway? In Arizona, the terms CNA and LNA are often interchangeable in practical terms; it’s up to each individual whether they want to apply to be formally recognized as a CNA or an LNA. 

While Nursa strives to present the most up-to-date information about nursing credentials and licenses, these things are subject to change. As a result, it’s always a good idea to review the Arizona State Board of Nursing’s certification and credential criteria before applying to become an LNA or a CNA in Arizona. 

What’s the Average LNA Salary?

While location and other factors affect how much an LNA can earn, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average national LNA wage is $36,220 annually. This pay rounds out to be about $17.40 per hour. However, in Arizona, where LNA jobs are prevalent, an LNA could make anywhere from $37,050 to $43,778 annually. In New Hampshire, where the LNA license designation is also common, LNAs can earn an average of $39,050 per year, or around $18.75 per hour. 

LNAs earn a good salary, and those who pick up PRN jobs earn more on average.

Choosing a Career as an LNA

Working as a licensed nursing assistant is an excellent position for individuals looking for hands-on experience in a nursing setting. In addition, working as an LNA could be ideal for someone seeking steady employment, a varied workday, and the chance to help others. Ultimately, becoming an LNA can be an excellent choice if you’re seeking a rewarding job experience that offers stability, growth, and a strong foundation for becoming a more dynamic nurse. 

Are You an LNA in Arizona? Find High Paying PRN Jobs with Nursa Today

Blog published on:
November 27, 2023

Meet Jenna, a contributing copywriter at Nursa who writes about healthcare news and updates, empathy and compassion for nurses, how to show staff appreciation and increase retention, and guides that help nurses navigate career pathways.

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