A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is an individual who is trained and supervised by a Registered Nurse to help patients (especially the elderly) with daily activities and tasks that they find difficult to do on their own such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, personal hygiene, communication and other basic activities.
CNAs are required to be physically strong for some of the tasks. For example; lifting a patient from the bed and assisting them onto a wheelchair, moving patients, helping a patient stand if he/she has fallen etc.
CNAs need to be patient, compassionate and willing to help those in need. It is important to have the right mindset before working as a CNA and to also keep in mind that the tasks aren’t that simple. However, for individuals who enjoying helping others and have excellent communication skills, this role could be just right!
Patients depend on CNAs. For them, a CNA is everything and therefore it is essential to be skilled and prepared for each task. CNAs need to bond with patients and become their friends in order to understand and assist them better. CNAs can also come up with various activities to make patients smile and to change their lives! Entertaining patients helps to lift up their mood and helps them feel better.
The activities that a Certified Nursing Assistant helps with include; serving meals, making beds, keeping rooms clean, feeding patients, bathing patients, assisting with some medical procedures (such as drawing blood), observing patients and changes in their behavior, taking patient vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse etc.) and much more.
CNAs work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The kinds of patients they work with are of various ages and abilities. If you are employed at a nursing home or a private home, then the kind of patients that you’ll work with will be elderly but if you are working at a school healthcare center then you may work with kids or teenagers and at a hospital, you will come across a wide range of patients. Each patient is different, most have long-term illnesses and that is why they are kept in a nursing home or other long-term healthcare facility.
Depending on where you are employed, you may be required to perform a variety of duties including maintaining a clean and sanitized environment, clear communication with the healthcare team and the patient’s family members, lifting/moving patients, taking vital signs or being friendly with patients.
Apart from the importance of physical strength, CNAs also need to be strong mentally because they may have to deal with patients who have undergone a tragic event that has traumatized them and led to depression or other mental illnesses. Yes, CNAs do spend most of their time undertaking physical activities such as lifting equipment or transferring patients and therefore it is vital that they learn proper body mechanics and physical techniques as well.
Hours of work
As a CNA, your working hours depend on where you’re working. You may work four or five 8-hour shifts or if you prefer an extra day off, you may work longer hours.
Many nursing homes and hospitals allow you to work three 12-hour shifts.
Averagely, a CNA works 32 to 40 hours a week.
What education will I need?
In order to work as a CNA, you will need a high school diploma or GED as well as practical training and classroom instruction so that you are able to provide care for the patients. You will not need a college degree. Some hospitals or nursing homes may offer free CNA training but you could also train at college within your state but you must ensure that the program is approved by the state. Training is available at community colleges, technical schools or organizations like the American Red Cross.
The CNA training program can be completed in 6-12 weeks. It combines classroom instruction and practical, hands-on training. The classroom instruction usually includes; basic nursing skills, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, infection control and nutrition. Once you complete both the theory and practical training, you will be required to sit for a certification exam. If you wish to advance to a Registered Nurse, you can earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Skills and Qualifications:
- Basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology and medical terminology
- Knowledge of relevant nursing care
- A current CPR certification
- Ability to multi-task
- Effective communication skills
To earn the CNA licensure, individuals will be required to pass a state competency exam. The exam comprises of written (mostly multiple choice questions) and a practical exam in a clinical setting to test your skills.
Once you have your CNA licensure, it is vital that you maintain and keep your license active. In order to keep your CNA license active, most states require that CNAs complete 48 hours of continuing education every two years.
Your state board can assist you and provide you with the most up-to-date information on licensing requirements. When your license requires renewal, your employer can help subsidize the cost for continuing education and some places may also cover the entire cost for their employees.
Places you can work as a Certified Nurse Assistant
CNAs are skilled to work in a variety of healthcare settings but the most common places are;
- Local hospitals
Although getting a job at a hospital could be tough, it is because hospitals generally offer the best jobs. As a CNA, you can get a job at a hospital by checking their website often for any vacancy and send in your resume to the human resource department. You can also build your chance of getting a job at a local hospital by volunteering at that hospital.
Working at a hospital has great working hours and amazing benefits including helping make a name for yourself! You can be recommended by your employer and earn respect as a healthcare worker. Job security is good and you can earn a high salary as a nursing assistant. Good luck!
- Skilled Nursing Facilities
There is high demand for jobs through skilled nursing facilities. It is a great place for CNAs to begin their career and gain experience in the field. Great job security, full-time employment, great place to develop experience and new skills. The job may be a little difficult since one person has to deal with too many patients at once but it is an experience that will help CNAs to become strong and prepare them for the actual job.
- Home Health Aide Agency
At a home health aide agency, CNAs work with a smaller number of patients and the job is less stressful. For a CNA working at a home health aide agency, you must be mentally strong as well. You may lose the patients you were dealing with and this can be very traumatic especially if you have built a personal relationship with them. You will not be working full time and you will get breaks in-between so you can work in other facilities if you wish.
- Assisted Living Facilities
CNAs in Assisted Living Facilities will be required to help patients with daily activities such as bathing, getting dressed, feeding them, monitoring their health and more. Getting a job here is very easy. There are numerous benefits and bonuses, the job isn’t very stressful and it is a great start before you advance further into your career.