As a certified nursing assistant, you’ll be providing most of the hands-on care of your patients. What exactly does that mean? What will your main responsibilities be as a CNA?
In many medical facilities, the CNA is the first person a patient meets after signing in at the front desk. As a CNA, you’ll be the one who greets patients and takes them back to the exam area to collect their vital information.
Typically, you’ll weigh the patient first, and measure their height. You’ll also be responsible for taking their blood pressure and temperature and recording their pulse rate. You’ll need to write all of this information in the patient’s chart, either by hand or on a computer.
In many medical practices, this all happens in a central area. Your next step will be taking your patient to a designated exam room. That is where you’ll ask the patient about their medical issue so that you can pass this information along to the doctor or nurse.
If necessary, you’ll also collect urine, hair, saliva, or stool samples for doctors or lab technicians to analyze
As a CNA, you’re not allowed to perform surgeries or other advanced medical procedures, but you may be called on to assist those that do. CNAs are frequently responsible for setting up medical equipment in a patient’s room or the operating room. Some CNAs receive training on how to calibrate and take results from various medical devices.
CNAs are also there to prepare patients for surgery. You’ll need to keep an eye on the patient’s vital signs and report any changes to the doctors or nurses. You may need to shave the surgical site or bathe the patient to reduce chances of infection before the surgery can take place. You’ll also be there to support the patient and answer any questions or concerns about the operation.
After the surgery, you’ll need to continue monitoring the patient’s vital signs, and keep them hydrated while they’re still under anesthesia. That means changing IV bags and keeping an eye on urine output. Once the patient is awake, you’ll assist them with any questions they have and report any pain or other issues to the doctors and nurses.
Direct Medical Care
Even though CNAs can’t perform more advanced medical procedures, they’re still responsible for some of the direct medical treatments the patient receives. Changing bandages, cleaning wounds, handing out medication, and changing IV bags are some of the responsibilities you’ll have as a CNA.
Everything you do will be supervised by a nurse, though the nurse may not be with you every step of the way. CNAs are expected to be able to handle basic medical care on their own, by following instructions given out by the nurses.
Most CNAs are responsible for cleaning up after their patients. You’ll be expected to make beds, change out bedpans, and pick up any leftover dishes from mealtimes. Many CNAs are also responsible for the proper disposal of medical waste, like needles and used bandages.
Depending on the facility you’re working for, you may also need to mop the floors and wipe down all surfaces in the room to make sure everything is as clean and disinfected as possible. Infection control is critical in any medical practice, and CNAs are on the front lines of the fight against the spread of diseases.
Patients may require a lot of assistance outside of their direct medical needs. Many patients will need help getting up to go to the bathroom, bathing themselves, and getting dressed. As a CNA, you’ll be their primary support in these functions.
You’ll serve meals to your patients, ensuring that all dietary needs or restrictions are being met. If the patient is unable to feed themselves, you will help them as much as necessary. If the patient has diabetes, you’ll need to monitor their condition after eating to make sure their blood sugar doesn’t get too high.
When patients need to transfer to different rooms or departments, you’ll be responsible for moving them. You not only need to ensure that the physical move is handled safely and with minimal discomfort to the patient, but you also need to make sure their records follow them and the staff in the new location is up to date on the patient’s needs.
If the patient needs tests like an MRI or CT scan, you’ll take them to the procedure room and inform them of what’s going on. Once again, you’ll be in charge of advising the staff of the patient’s condition and any complications they need to be aware of and giving them access to the patient’s chart.
Patients who use wheelchairs will require assistance getting from their bed to their wheelchair, and vice versa. You’ll aid them with that, and make sure they can get around safely.
Watching and Waiting
Since doctors and nurses are incredibly busy, CNAs are typically the ones monitoring the patients’ condition and answering any calls for help. Their vitals will need to be checked on a frequent basis, with any significant changes reported to their nurses.
If the patient starts experiencing an unusual amount of pain, or if their symptoms worsen at all, you’re the one who will be the first to notice. Whether the patient tells you themselves, or their monitors change their readouts, you need to be ready to pass along this info to the doctors and nurses at a moment’s notice.
In addition to physical symptoms, it’s also essential that you pay attention to the patient’s behavior. Personality changes can be a significant symptom of any number of physical problems. Since you’ll spend more time with the patient than anyone else, you might be the only one to notice the changes.
CNAs are often the face of the hospital or facility to the patient. You’ll be the staff they see most frequently, and the one they will look to for answers and support. An excellent bedside manner is one of the most crucial characteristics of a successful CNA.
Patients often feel scared and alone, at a time when they’re also physically weak from illness or injury. By being available to answer their questions, soothe their concerns, and chat with them in a friendly manner, you’ll make their stay much more bearable.
You may also be called on to contact the patient’s family or friends for them, especially if they’re incapacitated. You’ll need to inform the family of their relative’s medical issues in a way that’s both compassionate and professional.
The emotional connection you form with patients will likely be the most rewarding aspect of your job. However, becoming close to your patients can make it more difficult for you if they ultimately don’t make it out of your facility in good health.
The unfortunate reality of working in the medical field is that some of your patients will die. If they pass away while in your facility, you’ll likely be the one to provide post-mortem care in the immediate aftermath.
After a patient passes away, you may be asked to prepare the body for transfer to the morgue. That means you’ll remove any IVs, monitors, or other medical equipment, bathe the body, dress them in a fresh gown, and gather up any personal effects in the room to be returned to the next of kin. Once the patient has been prepared, you’ll transfer them to a body bag and bring them down to the morgue.
This is the aspect of the job that many new CNAs struggle with. It can be especially difficult if it’s a patient you’ve been working with for a while, as in the case of nursing homes and other inpatient facilities. No matter who the patient is or what your relationship with them was, aiding a human being on their transition into the death is an emotionally difficult process.
If you find that you’re having a hard time coping with the death and post-mortem care of a patient, the good news is you’re not alone. Both in your facility and online, you can find many other CNAs who have been through it and can help you get through it as well. Don’t hesitate to seek out their support if you’re having a difficult timeMiscellaneous
There are many other tasks that CNAs face every day, which is part of what makes the job so exciting and rewarding. You’ll be on-hand to provide any assistance the doctors, nurses, or administrators require from you. No two days will be the same, each of them filled with new challenges and surprises.
Though people outside of the medical field may overlook CNAs, most doctors and nurses rely on them heavily and feel a lot of appreciation for them, even if they don’t always show it. If you become a CNA, you’ll form part of the backbone that keeps the medical practice running and the patients happy and healthy.