Certified Nursing Assistants are the ubiquitous backbones of the medical world. CNAs take on the brunt of physical and emotional patient care in settings such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home health. Because of this wide range of settings, becoming a CNA requires great skill and necessitates the completion of a certified nursing assistant program. Most programs require a residency in which students will perform in real world settings. Upon completion of the program, students will be evaluated on their skills in both written and observed practical exams.
Much of a CNA’s work is to assist patients with everyday undertakings. For many patients, basic mobility is difficult, much less bathing, eating, and keeping themselves safe in their environment. To perform this role successfully, a CNA training program will teach:
• Transfer safety
• Assistive device training
• Turning and cleaning patients in bed (bed baths)
• Daily assistance of varying degrees (from total assistance to cueing help)
• CPR and basic first aid
• Obtaining vitals properly (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and respirations)
• Modified diets (thickened liquids, feeding positions)
Most job listings for nursing assistants will specify the applicant be able to lift at least twenty pounds routinely throughout the day. Performing patient care tasks correctly is important for both the patient and the CNA’s safety. So, in addition to the hands-on skills for patient care, CNAs must master:
• Proper body mechanics
• Appropriate use of patient transfer devices (lifts, draw sheets, trapeze)
• When to utilize more than one person for correct patient care
Nursing assistants are not licensed to interpret medical information or provide any diagnoses. However, knowing and understanding what is within normal limits, and being familiar with medical device care is an important aspect of the job. Giving patients a bed bath is commonplace for nursing assistants, and properly caring for a urinary catheter or feeding tube while doing so is essential for reducing damage and infection. As such, a certified nursing assistant program will cover:
• Proper hand hygiene
• Bedside manner
• Normal expected ranges of vital signs
• Common medical diagnoses (to note symptoms of glucose issues in a diabetic, for example)
• Environmental risk mitigation (tripping and fire hazards)
• Basic medical devices (wound care supplies, catheters, feeding tubes)
The most valuable skill in a good CNA is prompt, clear communication with the rest of the medical team. Nursing assistants are often the medical personnel who know the patient the best. With that knowledge comes the responsibility to observe and communicate any change in the patient status. Having a good relationship with other medical staff and knowing what a patient’s “norm” is are imperative skills to ensure subtle changes are addressed before becoming bigger issues.
A Certified Nursing Assistant is a dynamic job with a lot of employment opportunities and responsibilities. Certified nursing assistant programs can be completed in about 3 months, and once certified, the opportunities abound for nursing assistants.