Certified Nursing Assistants most commonly work in hospitals. The med-surge, or medical-surgical, unit is found in all hospitals. The patients in these units are either medical unit patients, meaning they have routine medical issues that need to be treated in the hospital, or surgical patients -- either pre- or post- surgery -- who are released once they recover from surgery. The duties of CNAs in these wards are basic and fairly universal.
One of the basic duties of a CNA regardless of the unit she works in is checking vital signs on a regular schedule, usually every four hours, and recording patients' temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen level in their chart each time. Additionally, CNAs are responsible for weighing patients in the morning if the doctor wants to know their weight.
Another common task for a CNA is to assist patients with their elimination needs. In a medical-surgical ward, this might be as simple as assisting them to walk to the bathroom, but often it requires inserting and removing catheters, measuring how much output each patient is producing, and helping patients use a bedpan, if they use one. In most cases, doctors require CNAs to log the amount the patient eliminated each time, and CNAs must also dispose of or sanitize the bedpans and other elimination tools.
Patients in the medical-surgical ward frequently need help walking, and this duty falls to the CNA. Not only does this include helping them walk to the bathroom or helping them in the shower, in some cases walking is a prescribed therapy following an illness or surgery. In these cases, CNAs might be required to walk patients up and down the halls for a certain number of minutes each day. Using the proper technique to support patients as they walk is essential. Also, in some cases CNAs might need to help transfer the patient to another department or help them to their car when they are released.
Medical Records and Documentation
As with all workers in a hospital, CNAs be able to document things in a patient's file accurately and in a timely manner. They also have to understand and follow privacy restrictions when entering and gathering information. This is very important, as violations of privacy standards can expose hospitals to lawsuits. CNAs work directly under the nurses in their unit, and take instruction from both the nurses and the doctors, so the ability to understand and follow directions is also critical.