Nursing assistants who want to obtain certification as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) will need to pass the CNA state examination for the state where they plan to work. In the state of Texas, the CNA state test consists of two sections: a written (or oral) examination with a series of 70 multiple choice questions, as well as a hands-on skills competency evaluation consisting of five procedural skills that are to be performed in the presence of a testing site nurse aide evaluator.
During the skills section of the CNA state test, all test takers will need to successfully perform hand washing as the first procedural skill. Thereafter, the test taker will be required to perform an additional four out of five testable procedural skills. The remaining four testable skills will be selected completely at random.
Before the skills evaluation section of the CNA state test starts, the testing site nurse aide evaluator hands the test taker an instruction card that lists the randomly selected procedural skills that must be completed. Hand washing is the only CNA state test procedural skill that is not selected randomly. In other words, all nurse aide candidates who take the Texas CNA state test will be assigned the skill of hand washing during the skills evaluation portion.
Critical element steps are also referred to as critical steps, key steps, critical items, and critical elements. According to Pearson Vue (2018), critical element steps are the important actions associated with each procedural skill that the test taker must complete with accuracy in order to pass that particular skill. In other words, critical element steps are actions that must always be performed when completing a skill in front of the testing center nurse aide evaluator during the CNA state test.
A nursing assistant candidate will most certainly fail the hands-on skills evaluation section of the CNA state test if he or she forgets to perform, misses, or incorrectly performs any critical element steps associated with a particular procedural skill. Also, be advised that most, but not all, skills have critical element steps that need to be correctly done in order to successfully complete the entire procedure with a passing cut score.
As an example, the procedural skill of cleaning an upper or lower denture has no critical element steps associated with it. However, the skill of measuring and recording a patient’s respirations has at least one critical element step attributed to it. Missing, forgetting, or incorrectly completing the critical element step associated with measuring and recording respirations means that the test taker fails the entire skill.
The skill of measuring and recording a patient’s respiratory rate is listed below in a step by step sequence, along with the single critical element step associated with this procedure. The critical element step is emboldened and underlined.
- The nursing assistant explains the procedure using clear and slow speech that is understandable. The nursing assistant maintains face to face contact with the client as much as possible.
- The nursing assistant measures the client’s respiration rate for one whole minute.
- The nursing assistant makes sure that the client’s call bell or signaling device is within reasonable reach.
- The nursing assistant washes his or her hands before documenting the client’s respiration rate.
- The nursing assistant is to document a respiration rate number that falls approximately within plus or minus two breaths of the testing site nurse aide evaluator’s documented number.
In general, most provisions related to safety, privacy, numerical measurements and infection control are usually regarded as critical element steps for testing purposes while taking the skills competency section of the CNA state test. The test taker cannot miss any critical element steps while performing a hands-on procedural skill at the testing center, or else he or she will automatically fail that particular skill.
In fact, most failures on the skills evaluation portion of the CNA state test can be attributed to the test taker’s omission or forgetfulness of the critical element steps on procedural skills regarding client safety, rights, numerical measurement documentation, or privacy maintenance. In summary, do one’s best to avoid missing any critical element steps at the testing center.
Pearson Vue. (2018). Texas Nurse Aide Candidate Handbook. Retrieved from https://home.pearsonvue.com/getattachment/73a0c524-4cbe-401a-aa5c-fe1ebf4e2517/Texas