For anyone interested in the health care field, gaining experience as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is a great way to see if health care is the right fit for them. A Certified Nursing Assistant, sometimes called a Nursing Aide or a Nursing Attendant, is a professional who works in a variety of health care settings. CNAs are responsible for many tasks that are important to providing quality patient care.
Certified Nursing Assistant Job Description
The CNA works alongside other professionals as part of a health care team. The primary focus for this position is to care for the personal needs and comfort of the patient. These responsibilities include: bathing, grooming, feeding, transferring, keeping patient’s rooms clean and answering call lights. The CNA position is supervised by a Registered Nurse (RN). The CNA reports directly to the RN regarding patient concerns. The CNA is expected to adhere to facility policies and procedures, including: infection control criteria, quality assurance, patient’s rights, safety, and best care practices.
The overall goal for a CNA is to provide the highest quality of care in a friendly and compassionate manner. Maintaining the patient’s dignity is of utmost importance.
A CNA has a critical role on the health care team. No two days are exactly the same. A Job purpose of a CNA is to help patients with all aspects of their daily routine. Some of their responsibilities include caring for a patient’s activities of daily living (ADLS). This may include helping a patient to transfer from sitting to standing. Personal hygiene such as bathing, toileting, brushing their teeth, combing their hair and shaving are also performed by a CNA.
Additionally, a CNA is responsible for charting any data recorded on a patient. It is important that all the information that is charted is correct. Other professionals, including physicians, will review the CNAs input and expect it to be accurate.
In some settings a CNA may also be expected to keep a patient’s room clean and disinfected. In other settings CNAs may help change bedding, clean bedpans and do laundry. A CNAs performance is expected to be professional at all times.
A Certified Nursing Assistant is trained to care for patients. A CNAs expectation and knowledge is different than an orderly. An orderly does not provide medical care to patients. They are only in charge of care that is not medically oriented. An orderly may clean a patient’s room or help them get to an appointment. However, they do not provide any physical cares. Additionally, orderlies do not need a post-secondary education or certificate in order to work.
CNAs, on the other hand, are involved with physical and medical care of their patients. They help patients with their activities of daily living and hygiene care. They also have experience and training with CPR and first aid.
A CNA is trained to help transfer patients safely. A CNA must know how to use equipment such as a Hoyer lift to transfer patients who may be too weak to move themselves. A CNA must follow safety guidelines to avoid injury to themselves and the patient.
CNA Skills Checklist
As a CNA, you may care for patients that cannot perform the activities of daily living due to illness, mental health challenges or a debilitating condition. Mastering your clinical skills is essential for safe and effective patient care and may be performed before a clinical examiner as part of your requirements for certification. Typically, you are tested on at least five basic CNA skills in your performance test that may include following tasks of direct care.
Taking Vital Signs with Accuracy
- Taking and recording blood pressure (BP) with a stethoscope and BP cuff
- Counting a patient’s heart rate and respirations for one full minute
- The proper use and reading of a thermometer for taking body temperature
Personal Care and Hygiene
- A full or partial bath of a bed bound patient
- Assistance with toileting, oral care and shaving a patient
- Bathing, dressing and grooming disabled patients
Assistance with Activities of Daily Living
- Feeding patients who are debilitated
- Transferring patients with restricted mobility
- Making an occupied and unoccupied hospital bed
- Applying range of motion to upper and lower extremities
Infection Control Skills
- Proper handwashing techniques to decrease risk for infection
- Use of gloves and proper disposal of soiled products
- Understanding and using Universal Precautions
Documenting Patient Nutrition and Fluid Balance
- Measuring a patient’s input of food and liquids
- Recording proper documentation of a patient’s urinary output
- Proper documentation of urinary catheter drainage
Click the following links to learn about what to test in a CNA exam by state:
Education and Qualifications
A CNA needs to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. This will allow them to apply to take CNA training at a Vocational school or a community college. They can register for CNA classes provided their background check is free of any child or elderly abuse charges. Once this is determined, then their coursework can begin. It generally takes eight weeks to complete CNA training. Trainees study anatomy, ethics, patient rights, medical terminology, injury prevention, communication skills, CPR, patient hygiene, disease processes and infection guidelines.
After the coursework is completed, the trainees must register with the state health department. They also need to pass a written examination. Once the trainee passes this exam, she or he is allowed to practice in the state where they live in and to use the state-specific title. They are also able to apply for jobs and begin their duties as a CNA.
In order to maintain their CNA certification, CNAs must renew their certification. Each state determines how often a certification needs to be renewed. Most states require them to do CNA renewal every two years CNAs may be required to take continuing education for renewal.
How and Where to Find CNA Jobs?
With a certificate in nursing assisting, you may be ready to begin your career in the healthcare profession. As a job seeker, you may find the numerous opportunities that are available in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care and home health agencies from reputable sources such as:
- The career counselor or job assistance program at your school
- Contact CNAs in your present or previous class that have found positions
- Online or printed newspapers and classified ads for jobs
- Call your local hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living facilities
- Contact home health agencies and find out the criteria for employment
- Consider adult daycare or mental health facilities that care for the aged
- Physician offices and medical groups
In addition, make inquiries for job openings at the medical facility that provides the clinical experience as part of your CNA program. Often, graduates enjoy working with familiar co-workers that precept them as a novice nursing assistant during the practicum.
Employers are looking to hire a CNA who is professional, dependable and are good with people. All nursing positions require employees to work some weekends. Job openings can be found in the help wanted section of the newspaper. To apply for CNA jobs, sending in a resume and a cover letter is the best way to get an interview.
Be Prepared with a Resume
In addition, always present a typed resume when interviewing for a position. If you do not have work experience and plan to apply for your first CNA position, ensure that you include components of your training and CNA skills that you have learned. By listing your knowledge and attributes on a well-organized outline, you can convey to your potential employer that you understand the duties and responsibilities of a CNA’s role such as:
- Efficient ability to take and record vital signs
- Strong communication skills with patients, their families and co-workers
- Ability to organize assignments for effective time management
- Interpersonal skills such as empathy, compassion and patience
- Sound understanding of patient safety, privacy and patient rights
Career Outlook and Salaries for CNAs
Obtaining a career in the nursing field is a good choice, at any level you decide to go into. There currently is a high demand for nurses at any level of education. If a CNA wants to be a RN, four years of education at a nursing school is required.
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the need for CNAs to care for the elderly will continue to increase. In fact, the demand for CNAs is predicted to grow faster than any other position within the health care system. Whether you decide to be a CNA or RN, either way you will be a valuable part of the health care team.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CNAs may expect a national hourly wage of $12.34 and a mean annual salary of $25,620. The salary for a CNA currently ranges from $24,190 to $35,850 per year. Although your CNA salary may vary by your state of practice and type of facility you work in, CNAs typically find jobs quickly after graduation and learn a body of knowledge that provides experience for career advancement. Depending on your particular state of certification, you may expand your role as a CNA with experience and advanced training in areas such as:
- Medication Nursing Assistant (MNA)
- Psychiatric Nursing Assistant (PNA)
- Geriatric Nursing Assistant (GNA)
- Home Health Assistant (HHA)
Your CNA experience may also provide you with a stepping-stone to advancing a nursing career as a practical or registered nurse or another field of healthcare. Working as a CNA is an invaluable experience that may provide you with insight into the healthcare field and help you decide on your future goals. As reported by the BLS, positions for CNAs in home health, hospitals and nursing homes are expected to increase almost 70 percent by 2022. With the current and growing demand for certified assistants, your CNA skills may provide you with an exciting and lucrative career in the healthcare field.