Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, are important members of the healthcare community. They provide some of the most basic care for patients, care that provides patients with comfort and dignity. CNAs help patients move around, bathe, get dressed, and stay clean and comfortable. They work with nurses to ensure patients are heard and that they are getting the best possible care.

To become a CNA, an individual must take a specific training course that results in a diploma or certificate. Passing an examination is also required to be certified in the state in which the CNA will be working. Although supervised by a nurse, CNAs do a lot of their work independently and have an important responsibility to provide patients with good care and to communicate any concerns or needs to a nurse or physician.

What Certified Nursing Assistants Do

CNAs are health professionals who work directly with patients. It is a caring profession because they are directly involved, helping, comforting, and communicating with the patients who are ill or injured. A certified nursing assistant is always supervised by someone with more medical training, usually a registered nurse but sometimes physicians. They do the non-medical work that is needed to keep patients comfortable, with minimal pain, and keep them well or improve wellness. Some examples of what CNAs do include:

  • Keeping patients clean and providing assistance with bathing.
  • Feeding and assisting with eating and drinking.
  • Helping patients dress.
  • Helping patients use the bathroom.
  • Turning and repositioning patients to prevent sores and discomfort.
  • Listening to patients and making notes.
  • Reporting to nurses on patients symptoms, concerns, and needs.
  • Taking vital signs like blood pressure.
  • In some states, CNAs may dispense medication to patients.

The work that CNAs do is not highly skilled, but it does require a caring and compassionate personality. These professionals are on the front lines, caring for the vulnerable. They have a big responsibility to patients and they have the ability to make a stay in a hospital or other facility more comfortable and less scary when they do their jobs well.

Where CNAs Work

Certified nursing assistants may work in nearly any healthcare facility, but they are most commonly found in nursing homes. These are facilities where patients stay for extended periods of time and need a significant amount of monitoring and medical care. The role of a CAN in a nursing home is important for keeping these patients comfortable for the duration of their stay.

In addition to nursing homes, CNAs may work in hospitals. They may also work in assisted living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. CNAs may provide in-home care as well. Patients who need more than just unskilled help around the house can benefit from having a CNA help them get around the house, eat, dress, bathe, and take care of other personal needs. CNAs that provide in-home care usually work for service companies that can provide patients and their families with references and proof that workers are appropriately certified.

Education and Certification

Although CNAs provide a basic level of nursing care, they are not highly-skilled healthcare workers. The requirements to become a CNA vary by state, but generally include the completion of a short educational program that results in a diploma or a certificate. A degree is not required to become a certified nursing assistant. CNAs usually complete their programs at community colleges, vocational training centers, or through the Red Cross.

Regardless of where the training is done, the skills that CNAs learn are the same. They learn CPR and first aid, how to take vital signs, how to promote cleanliness and prevent infections, how to help patients move, and how to work with nurses and other medical professionals. They are also trained in soft skills, like positive caregiving, being compassionate, and practicing patience with challenging patients.

Who Needs CNA Care?

Any patient who is staying in a medical facility for any duration and for any reason can benefit from the services of a certified nursing assistant. In a smaller facility the work that CNAs do may be covered by a nurse, but most medical centers, nursing homes, and hospitals have CNAs on staff to care for patients. Those who benefit the most from good quality CNA care are those patients who must stay in a facility for a long period of time. Nursing home patients, for instance, those who are unable to live at home because of age, disability, or medical condition, rely on the assistance of CNAs to help them stay comfortable and clean while also maintaining dignity.

The Importance of Quality CNA Care

All providers of healthcare services are important and have a role to play, but the work of a CNA is crucial for many reasons. The work they do is important for patient wellness, for instance. CNAs provide the care that keeps patients clean and helps manage their pain. Their duties include preventing the spread of infections and preventing patients from getting additional symptoms or conditions, like bed sores. The role they have in communicating between patients and nurses is crucial for helping ensure that patients get what they need to be well and to be comfortable.

A less tangible role that CNAs play is in providing patients with comfort and dignity. Being unable to fully care for oneself and being forced to stay in a medical facility instead of at home can be frightening, uncomfortable, and shameful for many patients. By providing good quality basic care, CNAs are professionals that really make a difference in the lives of patients and for their overall well-being.

While the role that these professionals play is so important for patients, it can only be beneficial if it is of good quality. Patients and the loved ones who care for them must be aware of the responsibilities of CNAs working with them and willing to say something if the care provided is not adequate. Many CNAs are dedicated professionals who truly love what they do and want to provide the best care for the patients they serve.