About CNAs

WHAT DO CERTIFIED NURSING ASSISTANTS DO?

When you picture a nursing assistant at work, do you think of bedpans and bedmaking? While those two tasks are important to a patient’s comfort and wellbeing, CNAs do so much more than that! Here are just some of the responsibilities facing CNAs in today’s healthcare organizations:

  • Measuring and charting vital signs: temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure.
  • Measuring and recording height and weight.
  • Assisting with ambulation and range of motion exercises.
  • Assisting with routine bowel and bladder care.
  • Keeping track of fluid intake and output.
  • Providing personal care and assistance, including bathing, dressing, grooming and feeding.
  • Observing and reporting any changes in health or mental status immediately.
  • Keeping patients comfortable, assessing and reporting any signs of pain.
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families.
  • Assisting with transfers and ambulation to and from bed, the bathroom, the dining room and other locations.
  • Using safety devices and infection control precautions to prevent injury and the spread of germs.
  • Initiating life saving measures, such as CPR, if needed.
  • Evacuating residents in an emergency, according to fire and evacuation policies.
  • Preparing meals for patients in their homes.
  • Feeding patients who cannot feed themselves.
  • Documenting food and fluid intake.
  • Transporting non-acute patients for testing within a facility or to a new unit.
  • Escorting discharged patients to their vehicle.
  • Delivering supplies, specimens and blood.
  • Transporting patients from home to work or to doctor’s appointments.

With additional training, nursing assistants can become what’s known as a CNA-II. A “second level” CNA does everything the CNA-I does, plus some or all of the following skills:

  • Setting up equipment needed for oxygen therapy and monitoring the flow-rate.
  • Performing oral and nasal suctioning.
  • Knowing how to break up and remove fecal impactions.
  • Providing tracheostomy care.
  • Performing sterile dressing changes.
  • Assembling and flushing I.V. tubing, monitors flow-rate, and discontinuing peripheral I.V. lines.
  • Providing ostomy care and irrigation.
  • Administering tube feedings (after placement verification by licensed nurse). Performing catheterizations and irrigation of catheter tubing.

As you can see, the role of the nursing assistant is varied and complex. CNAs work under the license of an RN, similar to the way that nurses carry out physician orders. And, it is the CNAs—not doctors or nurses— who provide eight out of every ten hours of direct care for each patient!

GOOD TO KNOW!

  • Direct care workers, like CNAs, provide an estimated 80 percent of the hands-on, long-term care and personal assistance received by elderly Americans or individuals living with disabilities or other chronic conditions.
  • Over the next ten years, we’ll need 30 percent more home health aides. This rate of growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. Home health aides are expected to gain job opportunities faster than other CNAs because of growing demand for home services from an aging population.
  • Females make up 88 percent of the direct client care workforce.
  • The average age of all direct-care workers is 41.
  • Nearly half of all direct care workers have attended some college or have an advanced degree.
  • Salary.com reports the national average salary for nursing assistants ranges from $21,000 to $31,000 yearly. CNA salaries may be higher or lower based on where a nursing assistant works, years of experience, and any specialty training he/she may have.

 

Hear from CNAs:

Kendra, CNA/CMA

I was a senior in high school when I started working as a CNA at Salina Regional Hospital in Salina, Kansas. As a seventeen year old, I was pretty rad :) I loved everything about my job. every single time I clocked in, I learned something new and made a difference in someone's life. Being a CNA is probably one of the most rewarding jobs there is out there. I have continued my Education at Kansas State University and am preparing for nursing school next fall. I have also continued my education and a retirement community. The bonds I have built with my residents is unbreakable and indescribable. they love me almost as much as I love them. Proud to be an aide!!!!

Wendolyn Lovelady, CHHA

Wendolyn Lovelady's Career as a CNA!

In my own words my experience working as a CNA: my name is Wendolyn Lovelady. I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. I became a CNA in 1995. I went through a training program at Healthwin Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. The program was a six week program. I excelled so well through the program. I was the first one done in my class the day of the exam, and I received a 100% on my exam and a 100% on my hands on part of the exam.

I always wanted to be a nurse as a little girl, watching my mother getting ready for work in her all white uniforms. I thought that was so awesome. My mother was a CNA at Saint Joseph Hospital for 10 years. She also worked as a ward clerk on several floors at Saint Joseph Hospital for 5 of the 10 years she worked there.

I enjoyed working for Healthwin Hospital for three years, then I was employed at Saint Joseph Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. While working at Saint Joseph Hospital I gained so much knowledge, along with experience working in the medical field as a CNA.

I also continued my education. I went to college at Ivytech Community College. My area of study was Associate of Applied Science; I received my Phlebotomy Techincian Certificate and I am studying now to take my credentialing test through ASCP.

My experience and knowledge working as a CNA is very thorough. I have experience in home health care, skilled unit, hospital, private duty nursing, psychiatric care, dementia care, assisted living and surgery. I love the CNA occupation and the medical field and I would not change a thing about my life! 

Carolyn Simmons-Newman, Nurse Assistant

NEVER FAIL RECIPE FOR CARING

INGREDIENTS:

Rehabilitation Center, Understanding Old & Young People, Gentleness, Tons of Forgiveness, Years of Dedication, Plenty of Love, Knowledge, Patience, Hard working Respectful Team-Members

INSTRUCTIONS:

Fill the Rehabilitation Center with lots love, old & young people & sprinkle with peace. Mix together equal amounts of patience, understanding and gentleness and add alternately with dedication, love and forgiveness.

When mixed thoroughly, sift over old & young people until well covered. Bake with tenderness and use knowledge, and hard work to decide when well done.

This recipe for caring will freeze well, not be spoiled by overtime, and will last for many years if stored in your heart. It's been used by many people for many years, and has not failed yet, as long as the recipe was followed with faith and joy. When serving this recipe, remember, it isn't so much whats on the table that matters, its who's in the chairs!

melanie , CNA-11

Melanie loves her work...

"I have been a CNA in a nursing home and then went on to work in a home based company for physically disadvantaged for 5 years and I have learned a lot about the people I care for.

I love what I do and learn something everyday! I would say I do a lot more than many CNAs do.  I give medicine and do Medicare papers and activities and go on outings to shop for my client's personal and grocery needs.

It is the best feeling in the world to give your helping hand.  When I go to work my clients laugh or get very happy to see me and thats my reward. My job takes a person with a caring heart and someone who is hard working-- because cleaning and doing all that's needed is not as easy as it sounds."

C Lynell Simmons, Nursinng Assistant

A CNA from Bermuda

A CNA from Bermuda has this advice for fellow nursing assistants:

"I WOULD TELL YOU TO HANG IN THERE BECAUSE SOMEONE IS DEPENDING ON YOU."

Yvette Young, CNA

Hear from a CNA at Civista Medical Center, Laplata, MD

Yvette says this about her job: "I'm a CNA at a hospital and what i love about my job is interacting with the patients, having great staff to work with as a team, And the responsibility that comes with the job, And I always learn something new. I suffer from high blood pressure and just listening to the advice that one of the doctors and the nurses give their patients has taught me how to keep mine in control and lose weight! And my favorite thing about my job is when I see former patients around town with their families and they recognize me and thank me for making their stay at the hospital a pleasant one."

Tonya Butler, CNA/HHA

Tonya has nothing but praise for her brother...

"I would like to say thank you to my brother, Robert K. Allen, who has been in health care for over 30 years. He is what a real CNA is. He cares; he respects; he loves; he listens; he looks and learns; he asks questions; and most of all he prays--not only for himself but for his patients, his staff and everyone he comes in contact with.

Robert enjoys and loves what he does as a health care provider and he always has.  I am so proud of him and just wanted to say Thank You Bro...you're the best in what you do. Keep up the good hard work. You are special to this field."

Love, your sis Tonya Butler

Stephanie Witt, CNA, Alzheimers Unit

Stephanie, a CNA at the Retreat, says...

"I became a CNA about 5yrs ago. I got into health care when my mother-in-law became ill with lung cancer. I really loved taking care of her. She was my best friend. When she passed away, i was asked to do some more home health care. I then took care of a lovely lady who had Alzheimer's disease. I really loved taking care of her, so I then went to a nursing facility and put in my application.  They called me six months later.  I worked there for quite awhile but it was a part of a large corporation and I felt stuck in a rut. The residents were treated like cattle: get them up, feed them, restroom, eat, restroom.  It was not very personal at all.

Then I heard an ad on the radio describing a new facility that promised more personal care.  So, on my lunch hour, I made a visit.  I talked to a lady who I thought was office help.  She took my application and gave me a tour of the facility (which was still under construction). She asked me some good questions--and I told her how I wanted to take care of people.  She told me I could start in three weeks and gave me a card with her name on it.  When I got outside and looked at the card, I was surprised to see that she was the owner of the facility!  I started the first day the facilty opened. (I hold that dear to my heart.) Whenever it's necessary, the owner of the facility does everything a CNA does. In my opinion, that is the difference between a private facility and a corporate nursing home.  I can't say enough good things about my workplace.  Please look it up online.  It's called the Retreat and it's in Rio Rancho, New Mexico." 

Jennifer Trout, Private Duty Coordinator

Jennifer shares her experience...

"I have been a CNA for about five years now and understand how much work is put into these type of positions. I understand the physical demands of perfecting body mechanics, but still coming home with a sore body. I understand the emotional demands of becoming attached to patients and they pass on. Currently, I am in a position to hire and train CNAs and I supervise their work with our patients. It's an honor for me to be on this side and work with fellow CNAs to ensure quality patient care. When I was younger, people use to ask me what I did for work and I would shrug my shoulders and say, "I'm just a CNA." Their eyes would get big and they'd laugh. "JUST a CNA?" they would ask me. One woman went on to tell me that what I did was not just being a CNA, there was so much more to it. It was a great feeling to know that even people who did not work in my field understood how much we put into our profession."

Mary (Sunny) Harwick, CHPNA

Sunny from Hospicecare in Janesville, Wisconsin says...

“Hello CNAs…you are wonderful. You work so hard and it is hard work. I have been a CNA for Hospicecare Inc. for 12 years. If you have decided to do this kind of work, remember the patients, residents and clients are our first priority.  Give them your time and attention. When you are taking care of them, try to keep your focus on just them, even though you may be short staffed and feel rushed.  If you truly slow down and focus on them, you will see how your time will be more productive. Encourage your coworkers to come to work and be a part of the Team. Find ways to reduce your stress.

Most importantly, try to avoid gossiping or talking about your personal life while you are caring for someone.  Sometimes it upsets them even though you might think they can't hear or understand you.  Take care of yourselves, too!

Allene Higgins, Caregiver/Concierge/CNA

Allene says...

Caregiver / CNA Rights I have the right to: • Take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will enable me to take better care of clients. • Seek help from others even though my clients may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength. • Maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person, and I have the right to do some things for myself. • Get angry, be depressed and express other difficult emotions occasionally. • Reject any attempt by my clients (either consciously or unconsciously) to manipulate me through guilt, anger or depression. • Receive consideration, affection, forgiveness and acceptance from my clients for as long as I offer these qualities in return. • Take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it sometimes takes to meet the needs of my clients. • Protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me when my client no longer needs my full-time help. • Expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers • Be assertive, honest and patient. I have a long road ahead. I need support from clients and those who will be on my team. • Use "I" messages rather than "you" messages. By saying "I feel angry" rather than "You made me angry," I can express my feelings without blaming others or causing them to become defensive. • If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. If you’re not getting your point across, or you’re getting no response, try again later. Sometimes, it’s just not the right time.

Stephanie R.-H., CNA

Stephanie says...

I work in a long term care facility and I love my job and my residents. Working in a long term care facility, you get really attached to your residents and really care about what happens to them so you provide the best care you possibly can!

Cyndi M., CNA

Cyndi says this about working as a CNA...

“I used to work at a long term care facility and I loved it. I loved my residents, and when I lost one of them it was devastating for me. I now work in a hospital. I do love my job, but I miss that connection you have with your residents.”

Rachel N., CNA

A "veteran" CNA, Rachel says...

“I’ve been a CNA for almost 7 years now. Everyone always asks me how I deal with death so much.  I always reply by telling them that working in a nursing home is not about death. I help patients learn how to walk, talk, read and do everything all over again, and yes, as CNAs, we also stand up for our patients and hold their hands on their worst days.  I do this job because I truly believe that there are few people in the world who were born for this job. It’s not about the money....granted it would be nice if it were more, but I wake up every morning never regretting the job I have. That’s why I am a CNA.”

Bridget B., CNA

Here's what Bridget has to say...

“What I like about being a CNA are the rewards. Making patients laugh is important to me.  I work at my local hospital.  I used to work in a nursing home for eight years prior. I enjoy seeing patients smile and doing everything I can to make them comfortable. It is hard work, but I’ve been a CNA for 10 years and I’m still at it!"

Lori B., CNA

Lori has this to say about being a CNA...

“I work in a nursing home for Catholic nuns. What I love the most about my job is the challenge of getting to know what it takes to make each patient’s day. I love it when I get to know what makes them click and exactly how to make them feel good about themselves so that they (at least the ones who are able) can do the most for themselves and feel great after I'm done helping them. What makes me stay? It’s the wonderful feedback. The kudos are well worth it. When I see them smile or change their attitude or see that they feel safe----that makes me stay.”

Nanci R., CNA

Nanci R. says...

"I left a high paying job to become a CNA again. I was a candy stripper as a teen and a CNA fresh out of high school. As an adult I worked for 10 years in the clerical field and even have some college. I realized my job's only reward was my pay check so I went back to being a CNA. I took a dramatic pay cut to do this but I love working with people, especially the elderly. I'd say the most important trait you can have as a CNA is compassion. When things are rough and I feel under appreciated or disrespected by management and I think I can't go on, I walk into a resident's room and really HELP them and all my despair washes away and I know I'm doing what I was called to do in life. There is no better feeling than a selfless act of caring for someone who needs it. It's sad that society places such little value on those who truly serve their community. Even after a hard day at work I can go home and feel good about what I did and know I made a difference in someone's life. Not many know that kind of success."

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