What Does a CNA Do?

Discover the roles and responsibilities of daily life in this professional healthcare role

Have you considered studying to become a certified nursing aide (CNA)? It’s a good career option for people who are interested in nursing but are not ready to pursue a full nursing degree. A smart first step is to gain a basic understanding of what role this healthcare professional plays in the lives of patients.

The main role of a CNA is to provide basic care to patients and to assist them with daily activities they can longer do for themselves. The care that a CNA administers can provide meaningful experiences for patients and their families, making this a potentially emotionally gratifying job in that you can have a concrete positive impact in the lives of others.

Here are some other basics to know about being a CNA:

Daily tasks
It takes a compassionate individual who can care for others to excel as a nursing assistant. Depending on where you choose to work, helping patients with everyday activities is the core function of a CNA. Daily tasks may include:

  • Taking vital signs, including your patient’s temperature and blood pressure
  • Bathing and cleaning
  • Improving a patient’s comfort, by turning or moving them in a bed or wheelchair
  • Aiding a patient to move—perhaps from the bed to a chair
  • Dressing a patient and grooming, as in brushing hair
  • Observing and listening to a patient, and sharing any patient concerns with your nursing team
  • Feeding and aiding with eating or drinking
  • Straightening up and cleaning a patient’s room

Where CNAs work
CNAs can work pretty much wherever you find nurses. While many CNAs work in nursing homes, home healthcare services, and long-term care facilities, hospitals are significant employers of CNAs. You might also work in community-based care settings, private care facilities such as adult day care centers, urgent care walk-in clinics, outpatient surgery centers, and physicians’ offices. Tasks are similar in many environments, though the pace tends to be faster in hospitals, and the time spent getting to know individual patients there is shorter, since most will be discharged within a few days.

Employment prospects
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics: “Employment of nursing assitants is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.”

Becoming a CNA can be a great place to begin your career in healthcare, especially if you think you may want to explore a broader career in nursing. In this profession, you can get experience in a range of different settings to help you decide on your focus for specialization. Look into whether you have the special qualities required to become a certified nursing aide. If you like the idea of helping patients, a career as a CNA can be a great way to start out in the field of nursing. We wish you the best of luck!



This post is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We take pride helping our students pursue their personal career goals. Reach out to us for more information about our numerous career training programs.