The duties of a hospital certified nursing assistant, also known as a CNA, vary considerably, depending on the type of unit you work on. Certified nursing assistants assist with medical tasks, but also help patients with activities of daily living and answer call bells. On some psychiatric units, CNAs might do one-on-one duty with patients deemed as suicide risks. A CNA might also have non-medical duties, such as answering the phone or getting patients changed and settled when they arrive at the hospital.
Some of the medical tasks CNAs carry out in the hospital include taking blood pressures, temperature readings and pulse, the number of heartbeats per minute, and respirations, the number of times a person breathes each minute. On some units, CNAs might empty Foley catheters and record the amount of urine for the nursing staff; part of the CNA's job might also be to measure the amount of fluid a person drinks during the day or how much of her meal she ate. The CNA might also check blood glucose levels using a glucometer and report them to the nurse caring for the patient.
Activities of Daily Living
On some floors, CNAs help patients eat, either readying their trays by opening difficult-to-open packaging or actually feeding some patients. Keeping water pitchers filled and in reach of patients can help keep people in the hospital more comfortable. It's common for CNAs to help patients with their morning or evening care, assisting with tooth brushing, shaving or other grooming tasks. A CNA might help turn a patient or help get him up into a chair or wheelchair. Some of the less pleasant tasks for CNAs include changing soiled pads or diapers on incontinent patients or emptying and cleaning bedpans.
A CNA often assists other staff with essential but non-patient-oriented tasks. If you're a CNA, you might run lab specimens to the lab or dumbwaiter. On some floors, such as labor and delivery, CNAs help set out instruments for procedures and help clean and sterilize instruments after a delivery or Cesarean section. A CNA might also stock rooms and help make beds on floors where turnover is rapid, such as labor and delivery. On maternity floors or in the newborn nursery, CNAs might make up isolettes, or incubators, with clean bedding and clean equipment between uses.
A CNA often spends long hours on her feet. Taking care of patient's needs can be a daunting task; people in the hospital are often cranky and difficult to deal with. Families can be very demanding. Being able to stay calm in a crisis and to notice when a patient doesn't seem to be acting right and reporting information promptly to the patient's nurse can help save lives.
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.