Discover more about the range of duties a nursing assistant handles
Certified nurse’s aides (CNAs), also known as nursing assistants, are members of the nursing staff who often have the most interaction with patients. They tend to get to know patients well, given that they care for them the most directly, which provides the opportunity for highly gratifying interactions.
CNAs generally work in hospitals, nursing homes, or long-term care facilities. They provide basic but critical care for patients who require assistance with tasks such as dressing, grooming, repositioning, feeding, toileting, and bathing. CNAs often work under the direct supervision of a registered nurse (RN), a licensed practical nurse (LPN), and/or a physician.
Here is how a CNA spends a typical day:
The Start of the Day
At the beginning of the work shift, the CNA will report to the head nurse, the charge nurse, or other supervisory staff member. The CNA will receive patient assignments, which may vary from day to day and require visiting different floors or departments within the medical or care facility. At this time, the CNA will often review notes on patient charts that the previous shift CNA or other nursing staff member would have documented.
Throughout the Day
There are a range of duties that can keep CNAs busy:
- Positioning patients for comfort: Depending on whether you are working a day or evening shift, you will help patients position themselves in bed or a day chair, for comfort, dining, or to sleep.
- Helping patients get around: During the day, the CNA might assist patients in getting out of bed and transport them to a procedure in another part of the facility. In the normal course of the day, patients may need assistance in turning over, re-positioning themselves in bed, getting to and from the bathroom, and perhaps taking a walk (if that is what their physician or physical therapist recommends).
- Dignified and personal care: Providing care to help patients maintain their dignity is a crucial aspect of the CNA’s work. This is a prominent role when you are supporting those with limited physical capability. These patients can rely on the nursing assistant for diapering, emptying of urinals and urinary catheter drainage bags, and cleaning bedpans. Maintaining a professional demeanor and a personal connection can make a critical difference in what can be a challenging aspects of life for many patients.
- Procedural and administrative duties: In some healthcare facilities, the CNA will also check vital signs and test blood sugar by sticking the patient’s finger with a glucometer machine. The nursing assistant may also record a patient’s food intake and output of waste.
- Emotional support and patient-physician liaison: As the staff person that patients often interact with the most, the CNA is in a unique position to understand the emotional state of the patients as well as to hear and relay their questions and concerns to other members of the medical team. The patient’s family and loved ones may come to rely on the CNA to keep their family member physically comfortable and emotionally at ease.
End of the Day
It is important for a CNA to make notes at the end of each shift about the care provided to each patient, because it helps the next nursing assistant on duty to anticipate patient needs, concerns, or requests. This way the patients will experience continuity of care.
Every workday as a CNA will have triumphs and tribulations, both large and small. This can be a challenging role, which requires the ability to organize, prioritize, and multitask, but there is also the potential to connect and bond with many people as well as enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a health care team.
If you’re interested in a new career in healthcare, perhaps it’s time to do some research. Learn more about the various environments where CNAs work. A program like the one at the Harris School of Business could be the beginning of a whole new professional path!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We’re dedicated to supporting all our students in pursuing their career goals. Reach out to us for more information about our number of different career training programs