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What Does a CNA Do?

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) works in various types of health care settings, including in long-term care facilities like nursing homes and assisted livings or even more private settings, like a patient’s personal home. CNAs take care of a variety of tasks that patients need throughout a typical day, such as providing direct patient care, offering emotional support, and performing light housekeeping. To meet these demands, a CNA must be able to pivot quickly and work efficiently. 

Perhaps the most crucial role of a CNA is to tend to the basic needs of a health care patient. CNAs complete these assignments under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or doctor. Simple tasks might include serving meals and helping a patient get dressed while more complicated tasks include taking vital signs and consistently watching for signs of distress. No matter the job, a CNA is a foundational and essential part of any health care organization.  

Each day the duties of a Clipboard Health CNA shift is based on the type of facility they work in, the number of patients assigned to a CNA, and the needs the patients have. Depending on the facility, a CNA might work with a patient demographic where the patients are mostly independent. In other cases, patients may need more in-depth and thorough support in most activities of daily living. CNAs need to show up ready for either situation.

So what do CNAs do exactly? Everyday responsibilities can include some of the following listed below.

1. Housekeeping

A CNA is responsible for changing bedsheets, tidying up rooms, and maintaining a clean environment for the patient. Depending on the facility, CNAs may assist in preparing a room for a new patient or resident or clearing a room after patient is discharged. A comfortable, clean, and organized environment benefits the well-being and healing of patients and residents. Sometimes, CNAs who are new to the career field might be surprised at the amount of housekeeping tasks that are involved in patient care. However, the tasks are an important part of providing quality and safe patient care.

2. Be Attentive

As one of the primary caretakers of the patient and one of the health care professionals on the team who spends the most time interacting with the patient, a CNA is typically aware of patient’s needs before the nurse or doctor. As part of their patient care, certified nursing assistants constantly monitor the physical and emotional health of a patient and either troubleshoot issues or report problems to the supervising nurse or doctor. 

Actively listening to the patient is a vital skill. Using effective communication skills is the easiest way to discover how to provide the best, personalized care to each individual patient. Listening is an excellent way to identify any potential issues or concerns the patient might have. If the patient is unable to communicate verbally, a CNA should continually monitor nonverbal messages that the patient might be using or look for hidden symptoms that something is wrong. These nonverbal cues or symptoms could include restless limbs, bedsores, or fatigue.

Using good bedside manner is also necessary in providing good patient care. A patient is more likely to communicate if they trust or like the CNA.

3. Taking Vitals

Routinely monitoring patient vital signs like temperature and blood pressure is an important task assigned to a CNA. This task is typically performed on a schedule and requires accurate record-keeping and time management.

If vital signs drastically change during the shift, it’s usually the CNA who is first to notice and must take quick action to make sure the patient isn’t harmed. Each health care facility has a protocol in place to follow in these situations, and it’s important to be familiar with normal vital signs and common issues that might cause those numbers to go out of range.

4. Providing Basic Hygiene 

Patients require assistance to complete activities of daily living. These are basic tasks that we all do throughout he day, including washing, dressing, grooming, eating, and moving.

It’s not uncommon for patients to use bedpans, and if so, CNAs are typically responsible for helping with elimination. While these tasks are not complicated, they’re essential for maintaining a patient’s hygiene and dignity and preventing infection.

Patients function at various levels and should be encouraged to complete small tasks themselves as able, like brushing their teeth; however, sometimes, they need support.

CNAs have the privilege to facilitate patient self-care. Changing or cleaning basic wounds might be required of a CNA as well. 

An average workday for a CNA typically consists of an eight- or 12-hour shift. Shifts can be day, evening, or overnight. A certified nursing assistant working three 12-hour shifts would be considered full-time.

Flexibility in scheduling is a known perk of the job. If a CNA needs more time off during the week, working longer shifts allows for additional time. Some CNAs work a variable schedule while others have a set schedule. These terms are negotiable, and many employees discuss them throughout the hiring process. 

Certified nursing assistant come to understand that at times the position isn’t glorious. However, their desire to help others trumps the job requirements that are less than appealing. 

Whether you are beginning your career or have years of experience — by focusing your efforts as a CNA on these essential tasks, you can make a substantial difference in the lives of your patients.

If you’re a CNA looking for extra flexibility in picking up shifts when and where you want them, find available shifts for CNAs in your area today with Clipboard Health!