What Does a CNA Do?

What Does a CNA Do?

A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) takes care of a variety of tasks throughout a typical day, such as providing direct patient care, offering emotional support, and light housekeeping. To meet these demands, CNAs 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 healthcare patient. Usually, as a CNA, you complete your assignments under the direct supervision of a registered nurse or doctor. Simple tasks might include serving meals and helping clothe a patient; 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 healthcare organization.  

Each day the duties of a CNA shift based on the needs and numbers of the patients assigned. Some patients will be less dependent, and others might need support in every aspect of daily functioning. You will need to show up ready for either situation. Everyday responsibilities can include: 

1. Housekeeping

A CNA is responsible for changing bedsheets, tidying up rooms, and maintaining a clean environment. Also, CNAs assist in preparing a room for admittance or clearing a room after patient discharge. A comfortable, clean, and organized environment will benefit the well-being and healing of a patient. Often, CNAs new to the career field might be surprised at the amount of housekeeping involved; however, the tasks are important and benefit the patient. 

2. Be Attentive

As the primary caretaker of the patient, a CNA is typically aware of patient needs before the lead nurse or doctor. Certified nursing assistants are required to monitor the physical and emotional health of a patient. 

Actively listening to the patient is a vital task. Communicating will be the easiest way to discover how to serve your patients best. Listening is also an excellent way to identify any potential issues or concerns your patient might have. If the patient is unable to communicate verbally, you should continually monitor nonverbal messages the patient might be sending, or look for hidden symptoms that something is wrong. These nonverbal cues or symptoms could include restless limbs, bedsores, or fatigue. Don’t forget to be a friend. Loneliness is a symptom you can help heal with a listening ear and a friendly smile. 

3. Taking Vitals

Monitoring the vital signs such as the temperature and blood pressure of a patient routinely throughout the day is an important task assigned to a CNA. This task is typically performed on a schedule and will require accurate record-keeping and time management. You may need to take action if vital signs drastically change during your shift. Your healthcare facility will have a protocol in place to follow if you find yourself in this situation. 

4. Providing Basic Hygiene 

Patients require assistance to complete basic tasks such as washing, dressing, grooming, eating, and moving. It is not uncommon for patients to use bedpans, and if so, these would need to be attended to as well. While these tasks are not complicated — they are essential. Patients will function at various levels and should be encouraged to complete small tasks, such as brushing their teeth, themselves; however, at times, support will be needed. As a CNA, you have the privilege to facilitate patient self-care. Changing or cleaning basic wounds might be required of you as well. Any care that extends beyond your skill set, you can quickly learn on the job. 

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 you need more time off during the week, working longer shifts allow for additional time. Some CNAs work a variable schedule while others have a set schedule. These terms are negotiable, and you can discuss them throughout your hiring process. 

As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you will come to understand that at times your position isn’t glorious. Your desire to help others must trump 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.

Find available shifts for CNAs in your area today — download the Clipboard Health app!