A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an integral part of the patient care team in many health care settings. Many work in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and hospitals. They also commonly work in health care services that provide in-home care to patients as part of home health or hospice care.
CNAs report to registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, but they’re expected to be self-motivated in providing quality care to patients in addition to delegated responsibilities.
For many, getting a CNA certification only takes a few weeks or months. The average CNA salary is more than $30,000 annually, although that depends on what type of specialty you work in and what state you live in. In every state, the need for CNAs in the country is growing, and it’s expected to continue growing.
Working as a CNA at Clipboard Health means you’re helping facilities to handle that high demand for nursing assistant staff. At the same time, you’re able to pick up shifts when you want and where you want and get paid immediately after.
If you’re new to a career as a CNA or looking to refresh your understanding of what a CNA does, here’s what you should know about this demanding but rewarding health care job.
CNA Job Description
A CNA’s duties are to provide direct care to patients under the supervision of a nurse. The sort of responsibilities a CNA typically performs are tasks related to activities of daily living.
These are tasks that patients need to perform at least once a day, but they have difficult doing them their own or without assistance for a variety of reasons. Activities that CNAs help patients with include transporting, cleaning, dressing, assisting, and grooming.
Additionally, CNAs assist the rest of the health care staff and communicate any concerns about a patient’s condition to them. Overall, a CNA is responsible for helping patients to feel comfortable and safe and respond to their needs.
Although exact responsibilities vary based on the facility and the patients they work with, the most common CNA duties include the following:
- Take vitals: CNAs take patient vitals (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, etc.) as needed. They then chart results and communicate with the rest of the care team if any vitals are out of normal range.
- Assess patients: While providing direct care, they check patients for bruises, bedsores, and wounds, and if they find anything unusual, they let the rest of the care team know immediately. They also assist with applying and changing non-sterile wound dressings and giving patients ice packs or heat therapy. Another part of patient assessment is charting patients’ attitudes and reactions.
- Communicate: In addition to regularly scheduled tasks, CNAs respond to patient calls and relay important information, questions, and concerns to the rest of the patient care team. A vital part of communication is charting details about services provided via electronic or handwritten charting systems.
- Attend to patient hygiene: CNAs assist patients to maintain their hygiene by helping them with bathing, dental care, and grooming as needed by the patient. Depending on the facility, CNAs may give bed-bound patients bed baths. Another common patient care task is to help dress patients and help them change clothes.
- Help them move around: Many patients have difficulty with movement, so a CNA might help patients get in and out of bed or walk. If the patient uses a wheelchair, they may need help getting in and out of of the wheelchair or moving around. Depending on the facility, CNAs also help patients onto exam tables and rotate bed-bound patients to prevent bedsores from forming.
- Provide assistance with toileting: CNAs often check and change catheter bags, help patients use the toilet, and provide and clean bedpans. Other duties also include caring for incontinent patients by changing their briefs or pads and cleaning the patient.
- Clean patient rooms: Having a clean room helps patients to heal as well as keeps the area safe to prevent injury and infection. CNAs often participate in cleaning and sanitizing patient rooms, including making sure room supplies are stocked. They also regularly change bed linens and may be responsible in doing laundry.
- Assist patients with eating: CNAs assist patients with eating and drinking as needed. They also help in tracking how much food and water patients take if necessary.
- Prevent infection spread: As CNAs provide patient care, they use standard precautions and safety devices to prevent the spread of infection and disease. They know how to use personal protective equipment appropriately, like gloves, masks, etc.
- Additional responsibilities: CNAs may help with additional responsibilities at the request of the nurse supervisor. This could include admitting and discharging patients, assisting with patient transfers, and helping with initial post-mortem care. Depending on state regulations and facility rules, a CNA may also get extra certification to be able to administer medications to patients.
CNA Educational Requirements & Essential Skills
For CNAs to work effectively and safely, they need the following skills:
- Understanding of medical terminology
- Knowledge of basic human anatomy and physiology
- Knowledge of basic nursing skills, such as taking and recording vital signs
- Current CPR certification
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Great observational skills
- Friendly and compassionate bedside manner
- Ability to effectively handle graphic medical situations
- Basic computer skills.
In order to become a CNA, you can enroll in a CNA training program, which you can find at community colleges, health care employment agencies, and vocational schools. These courses teach you the skills required to pass state certification exams and skill assessments.
CNA programs cover how to handle all of the common duties found in a CNA’s job description as listed above. Most learning is done in a classroom and lab setting, but courses will also partner with health care facilities to give you a few shifts’ of experience working as a real CNA.
Overall, training takes about two to 12 weeks in total and ends with the goal of you passing your state’s certification exam. Most CNA training programs will include test preparation for the certification exam built into the lesson plan.
CNA Salary and Job Outlook
The average annual salary for CNAs in the United States is $30,720, with an average hourly rate of $14.77, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Although that’s the average, the type of salary you might make will vary widely depending on the state you live in. For example, Alaskan CNAs make the most nationwide with an average hourly wage of $19.38. The next highest-paying states for CNAs are New York ($18.66 per hour on average), Hawaii ($18.13 per hour on average), and California ($17.61 per hour on average).
The job outlook for CNAs is excellent. Since many CNAs work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, there will be a growing need for them as baby boomers enter their senior years. As the proportion of older adults in the population grows, they’ll need the specialized nursing care from health care facilities.
Nursing assistant and orderly positions are growing, and it’s expected that they’ll only keep growing in demand over the next decade. The need for CNAs is expected to increase by 9% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than the average of all other occupations.
Overall, being a CNA is an exciting job in the medical field where you can help patients one-on-one and enjoy the job security of a field growing in demand.
For excellent job flexibility and the opportunity to determine your own work and life balance, qualified CNAs can apply at Clipboard Health today and start working per-diem shifts at nearby facilities.