Since Nursing has undergone such a thorough growth in terms of their duties, and the general increased necessity for them in the health care sector, many duties have been delegated to a variety of people, all with the title of nurse, in some form or another. The existence of the Certified Nurse Assistant role is indicative of how demanding nursing really is. Such is the weight or need for care givers that even they have sought the help of an assistant. In this instance it’s the CNA which is the assistant to the Registered Nurse (RN), but that term assistant is somewhat misleading. Caring, communicating and comforting patients may seem like a fairly basic outline for the CNA but those words involve a lot more than what it lets on, and it takes a special kind of person to carry out those duties.
Often you’ll hear that the Nursing Aid is the bottom rung on the nursing ladder, and it largely is. That bottom rung though is filled with many of its own unique challenges and the nature of the work is relentless in its demands of the person tasked with performing them. It’s for this reason that anyone considering pursuing a career in nursing should be completely aware of all that comes with the position. It has been known that there are some people who study and go through the apprenticeships earning their certification, licensure or registration, and still find the going too tough. It’s a case of being prepared till a certain point as training can only equip you so much, but once you find yourself in the heat of things, working the hospital or care facility floor, things can take on a whole new complexion and push you to your limits.
Finding people that are capable of doing the work is rare, but it’s an even more uncommon occurrence to find people who are capable and willing to do the work.
Here we take a look at what it takes of the person to do the job as well as the actual CNA job description. Firstly though, we look at a few of the considerations one needs to make prior to any thoughts or inclinations toward a Nursing assistant course.
The CNA Course Requirements
- Educational requirements: There are a number of universities and colleges offering courses for prospective Nursing Aid certification programs, even a great number of CNA online programs. Every course will require the student to possess a high school diploma or GED equivalency. There’s a slight divergence between various states where credit-hours are concerned, but each student can expect the CNA course to last from six to twelve weeks. The respective Departments of Health or Nursing Aid Registry of each state will carry the exact requirements pertaining to their region. The final Exam should consist of two main parts, namely the written test and the practical Skills test. The written side of things of course looks at the scope of knowledge of each prospective nurse, while the clinical Skills test is a veritable trial to judge the students competency in performing certain tasks and putting their acquired knowledge into practice. Once certification has been earned and your name entered into the states CNA registry, some states may require you to undergo/enter constant competency and perhaps enhancement programs on a fairly regular basis. Although CNA’s have become a mainstay in the health care team, many look at it as a stepping stone to more in-depth courses and a vital checkpoint on the road toward being a full Registered Nurse, and perhaps even earning their degree, masters or doctorate.
- Physical requirements: Nurses are expected to be of sound mind and body; they’ll be required to lift objects/patients, push gurneys/wheelchairs and assist people who have trouble walking on their own, thus they need to have a general semblance of decent-to-good fitness. Bear in mind that CNA’s will be required to be on their feet for great parts of the day, standing and walking as they care for residents.
- Individual requirements: the Certified Nursing Assistant job is a demanding one that often requires them to seek reward in the little things as it can often be a thankless toil. Those who are Nursing Aids, or are looking to be one, are invariably immensely selfless people who are very direct in their ways with a good dose of compassion. The work can not only be taxing on the body, but on the mind as well, as they will need strong scruples to handle the really intense and unpredictable situations. Needless to say the qualities required of the person doing the caregiving is special indeed, and as we’ll find out, apart from the physically (as in bodily) messes they have to deal with on a daily basis, there’s also the other human element to consider, that of “handling” patients’ loved ones and communicating with both them and their own superiors (which, in any given hospital, could well be just about everyone on staff, baring other CNA’s of course).
The Certified Nursing Assistant Job Description
As one can expect, when looking at the core subjects of the CNA training, which should include Anatomy, Primary care, First Aid, Communication skills and Computer literacy, the actual CNA job description covers quite a variety of tasks. Although CNA’s will not be doing any diagnosing or unsupervised patient treatments, their roles are still quite specified. A couple of hugely important aspects of the job are cleanliness (personal as well as surrounding hygiene) and safety. Safety issues can often stem from the little details as they can often be a predetermining factor in maintaining a certain level of comfort for the patient one is attending. This of course includes being attentive to the residents requirements and desires as they try to ensure the optimum comfort for all concerned. Details in these regards can also be a major stumbling block for those doing the clinical final skills test.
The following is a list of CNA duties also expected of any Nurse Aid:
- Taking vitals, like the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. The frequency at which the vitals should be taken will be dictated by the specific nature of the patient and their condition. For instance, vitals might be taken on routine checks by the CNA as they do their rounds during a shift, or the patient’s condition – due to their illness or a medical procedure they’ve been through – may require constant monitoring.
- Assisting patients with every day activities (for the patients that are unable to carry out their normal undertakings like post-operation residents, elders or terminally ill)). This falls under Primary care and includes duties like washing patients (which may involve brushing their teeth, shaving, combing their hair and dressing them). Also included in this role is feeding residents who are unable to, and supplying them with water if needs be. Some patients who need assistance with going to the toilet will also require the aid of the CNA.
- Acquiring and relaying lab samples and reports that do not require specified laboratory staff (this may also be at the discretion of the CNA’s supervisor).
- Informing and assisting patients with prescribed medical equipment for their treatment – this may include instructing the patients loved ones as well if the patient is being discharged. Included in this area of aid is helping patients and transporting them from one department to another for tests or procedures and treatments.
- Infection control. There are very stringent procedures and protocols that every CNA is required to follow to maintain sanitation and prevent the transmission of any diseases or bacteria. Since Nursing Aids are constantly dealing with patients, practically always with hands-on assistance, the chances of spreading germs and infection is greatly increased (hospitals are known to be very unhygienic as the fight for infection control is an everyday battle). This category is also very prevalent in ensuring that the Nurse assistant themselves is protected against infection and illness.
- Monitoring patients. As a CNA, you’ll be required to be very attentive to the needs of the residents and to log and report on any changes. This will be included in the duties of all CNA’s – the ability to “read” patients and identify certain signs or indicators of certain conditions, like symptoms of low blood pressure. The primary concern for the CNA, in this instance, is the well-being of their patient/s, even if this means protecting them from themselves.
- Recording patients statistics in their respective files – this will comprise the patients physical condition or attributes, like their weight and height, as well as logging and recording their medical history (crucial to this aspect of the job is ensuring that factors like allergies and chronic illnesses, as well as medication that the patient may already be taking, is well noted and recorded).
- Under the correct supervision, some CNA’s may also be allowed to administer medication, like blood transfusions or inserting IVs.
- If requested or required, some CNA’s may be required to administer some basic massage therapy for patients who are laid up and unable to exercise sufficiently, or have temporarily lost mobility (accident victims)
From this list it’s easy to see that the CNA’s job description covers a wide range of things, but for those looking for even more detail, you can simply have a look at some of the CNA practice tests online. In the test you’ll find a number of atypical (for most of us) scenarios that the Certified Nurse Assistant may find themselves in. these scenarios will include instances where they will be required to make certain fundamental decision’s based upon their training in dealing with unruly patients or those with mental illness. Some patients may suffer from temporary mental illness or perhaps Alzheimer’s, in which case they’ll have to handle patients with the utmost care. This applies to those who are experiencing grief as well, whether due to the loss of a loved one or the receiving of news that the patient themself is suffering from a terminal illness.
Included in the CNA job duties is the ability to deal with sometimes awkward scenarios, like finding patients roaming the hallways unattended and assisting them to where they want or need to be, as well as how to handle patients suffering from certain illnesses like Cancer for instance.
The Consummate Care Giver
In addition to all the clinical responsibilities of the CNA, communication and comfort are major aspects as well. Being a good Nurse Aid means ensuring that all the patient’s needs are taken care of, and in the case of comfort, that even some basic factors are seen to that will make their life easier. Factors such as maintaining a clean and comfortable living space for the residents and ensuring that their bedding remains clean and dry, and that user equipment is at hand – like making sure that the call button or TV remote is close at hand.
Communication is a vital cog in the healthcare wheel; if certain information is not relayed timeously or at all, lives could be lost or permanently harmed. So part of the Nursing Assistant job description is maintaining a solid and open communication link through all channels; be it via Nurse to patient or CNA to superior or replacement staff. For instance, it’s essential that necessary patient information is transferred across shifts so as to maintain a seamless change, ensuring that patients receive the best care.
It’s clear to see that the Certified Nursing assistant needs to be a very special kind of person (as one can state for every nurse), to not only be compassionate, but also empathetic to the patients cause. The Nurse Aid may find themselves helping someone who is experiencing, veritably the worst days of their lives, so supporting them through this intense time is an unparalleled duty, and essential to the process of healing.