So, what does a CNA do exactly? Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, play an integral role in the healthcare system and have many responsibilities. If you are considering this profession, or want to hone your skills in a CNA position you already hold, you are in the right place.
In this article, we will outline everything you need to know about Certified Nursing Assistants. From CNA responsibilities to the differences between a CNA and a nurse, to salary information and ways to become a CNA, we have it all here.
As you may know, the foundational role of a certified nurse assistant is to provide basic care for patients. But, there is so much more than that included in the job description. Let’s dig into the specifics of this important role below.
What Does a CNA Do?
CNAs often serve as a patient’s main caregiver. This is especially true in long-term care as a home health aide or in nursing home facilities. In hospitals, they tend to work hand-in-hand with LPNs and report directly to the nursing staff.
You may be wondering then, what is the difference between a CNA and a Nurse?
First, let’s review the hierarchy of nursing positions:
- LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) or LVN (Licensed Vocational Nurse)
RN (Registered Nurse)
- APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse)
- NP (Nurse Practitioner)
Below, we will break down the difference between CNAs and Nurses (LPNs or higher):
CNA vs Nurse
- CNAs are responsible for basic patient care (as noted above) while Nurses are responsible for the full breadth of patient care
- CNAs require the shortest amount of schooling (often less than a semester), while the next tier of LPN requires a year of education
- CNA salaries are lower than nursing salaries for the reasons outlined above
- CNAs report to Nurses
What are the Responsibilities of a CNA?
The duties of a CNA are wide-ranging. You will find CNAs in a variety of medical facilities such as hospitals, outpatient rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, to name a few.
Before we dive into the medical responsibilities, it is important that you know just how big a role communication skills play in the role of CNA.
Because CNAs spend so much time working directly with patients, being able to communicate effectively with them, their loved ones and their treatment team is crucial. The best tips we can give current and aspiring CNAs is to hone your communication skills regularly.
How can you accomplish improving your communication skills? Here are five ways:
1. Learn to read body language
Body language in a patient can help you see when they are in pain for example. Non-verbal cues are especially important when you help patients who have a hard time or are unable to speak.
Understanding the body language of your superiors on the treatment team will come in handy in more ways than we can count.
2. Listen with intent
Oftentimes during a conversation, we are waiting for our turn to speak and planning what we are going to say. This is not true dialogue and almost always ends up in miscommunication and confusion.
From now on, listen intently to the person with whom you are speaking instead of preparing your next statement. Not only will this tip help you at work, but also in life!
3. Over-communicate while remaining concise
This may seem like an oxymoron but it isn’t. When you need to make an important point, make it in a concise manner. Because of tip #2, you know that most people aren’t truly listening and absorbing your words. This means you need to use as few words as possible, whenever possible. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t also drill the point home.
For example, if you’re updating a patient chart with something important, consider bold or italics as a way of “over communicating” the importance. If you are sending an email, put the important piece in both the subject line and the body copy. You get it!
4. Write things down
This one is essential for CNAs. With endless moving parts, your day is already jam-packed with vital information. Taking notes not only gives the impression that you are carefully listening to people, but the notes are an invaluable resource when you have multiple patients.
5. Consider your audience
The way you speak with your manager is different than the way you speak with a patient. The way you speak with one patient is different than the way you speak with another, depending on their age, gender, ailments, and more. Put simply, learning how to speak effectively to multiple different audiences – and knowing who your audience is at any given moment – is a valuable skill.
For more information about improving your communication skills, check out this great article by entrepreneur.com.
Now, let’s review the medical-related CNA responsibilities. They include:
- Working with medical software (charting, information systems, billing, etc)
- Helping patients eat (and possibly serving meals to the patients)
- Helping patients bathe; assisting with dressing and undressing
- Ensuring bedridden patients are turned and comfortable
- Providing and emptying bedpans
- Changing bedding and stocking the patient’s room with necessary supplies
- Sanitizing all areas in which the patient will be
What Does a CNA Do in a Hospital?
CNAs who work in hospital settings wear many hats and handle the following tasks:
- Gathering medical history and other details from the patient and caregivers
- Serving as a pipeline of information to the staff and treatment team
- Taking vital signs
- Answering calls from patient rooms
- Examining patients in some instances (watching for bruises, dressing and observing wounds, etc)
- Setting up necessary medical equipment for the nurses and doctors
- Lifting patients in and out of wheelchairs, on and off exam tables, in and out of bed
- Transporting patients from their rooms to other units
As you can see, the position requires that you cultivate a high level of passion for the well being of others. It is rewarding to work so closely with patients who truly need you. CNAs are “boots on the ground”; the position requires commitment as it is both physically and emotionally demanding.
In short, the best CNAs thrive in their position because they are both excellent communicators and passionate caregivers.
How to Become a Certified Nursing Assistant
If all of this sounds up your alley, you may be wondering how to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. We have you covered!
Let’s review some frequently asked questions:
How long does it take to become a CNA?
CNAs complete anywhere from four to 12 weeks of schooling in a CNA training program. During this time, CNAs in training will learn basic nursing principles and practice hands-on supervised clinical work. They are also required to pass a state exam before they can begin working.
While CNA education requirements vary from state to state, they generally include the need for a high school diploma or GED, completion of around 85 CNA training hours and passing an accredited nursing assistant program/state exam to receive their CNA certification.
How much does a CNA make?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017, CNAs earn an average of $27,510 a year or $13.23 per hour.
Where can I find a CNA job?
CNA positions can be found in a number of places. Most notably, CNAs work in a long-term care facility like a nursing home or assisted living facility. It’s important to note that the nature of the job is demanding and like many medical professions, requires 12 hours shifts that sometimes fall on nights and weekends. In these positions, CNAs spend a lot of time with the same patients, further proving why a caring nature and good communication skills are important.
You can also obtain a CNA position in a hospital if you are more interested in the medical side of things. For example, CNAs who hold hospital positions are often exposed to multiple units including the ER. You will still be responsible for basic patient care, however, you’ll spend less time with the same patients providing direct patient care in a hospital vs. a nursing facility or long-term care facility, meaning your days will be faster-paced and less routine.
If you were wondering, “What does a CNA do?”, we hope you’ve found the answers!
In this article, you learned that:
- General CNA responsibilities include basic patient care and strong communication skills
- CNAs often report to LPNs or RNs
- It takes approximately 4-12 weeks to become a CNA in a CNA program
- CNAs earn an average of $27,510 a year
If you have a passion for helping others, you may be a perfect candidate for a CNA position!
Now that you understand CNA responsibilities, could this be the job for you?
Share with us in the comments below!