A certified nursing assistant, more commonly referred to as a CNA or nurse aide, is the medical professional who provides the most hands-on care for patients primarily in hospitals and nursing homes. While a CNA may be near the bottom of the medical profession’s hierarchy, she is one of the most important caregivers for patients who rely on others for their most basic needs, from eating and bathing to toileting and moving.
Strong Skill Sets
It’s vital that you master the skills you’ll use every day at work. You need to be able to accurately take patient vital signs that include blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. Learn how to properly move patients, how often they must be moved and how you effectively help them transfer from one spot to another, like from the bed to a chair. Patients rely on you for cleaning and bathing assistance that could include changing clothes and bed linens after an accident, as well as daily grooming activities. One of the most important skills you need to master is how to prevent the spread of infection by constantly washing your hands and wearing gloves when appropriate.
You are the main person who spends the most time with patients during a shift, particularly in nursing homes where 55 percent of CNAs work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As such, you need to be a good listener so you can best help your patients and relay their needs and concerns to your supervising nurse. Observational skills are important as well because you’ll be the first person to spot the beginnings of a bedsore or note dramatic personality changes that could indicate the onset of depression.
The best CNAs share a multitude of characteristics from compassion and patience to supportive and optimistic. But being cooperative is a vital character trait you really need to develop to make it as a CNA. (ref 2) You are part of a health care team and need to consider the needs of your coworkers and supervisors as much as you do the needs and requests of your patients. A successful CNA helps her coworkers when asked and in return, receives assistance when needed. You complete your tasks each shift so the CNA coming behind you doesn’t get stuck with extra work. You show up on time and are reliable and flexible.
It helps if you are enterprising and can see where something needs to be done, make a plan and carry it out effectively. (ref 3) A lot of the work you do is independent; you don’t have a supervisor looking over your shoulder constantly and you often have to make split-second decisions on your own. When you start a project, you stick with it until it’s done. Being enterprising makes your job more palatable because you can figure out how to be efficient and then take responsibility for completing your work in ways that work best for you, your patients and your bosses.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."