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Appreciating Certified Nursing Assistants

September 22nd, 2010 by – Marijke Durning

When people think of nursing, they generally think of licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs). It’s not often that they think of other people on the team. While certified nursing assistants (CNAs) aren’t nurses, they do play a vital role in nursing care.

Becoming a CNA is the quickest route to getting into health care. For some people, being a CNA is the goal and it is their career. For others, being an assistant is a stepping stone to get where they want. Some work as CNAs as they study outside of the nursing field. Working CNA hours is good for a part-time job. Others are people who want to be nurses or other health care professionals and are using both the salary they earn as CNAs and the experience they get to get them ahead.

We know that nurses are front-line health care workers; they deal with the public in good times and in bad. But CNAs do much of the hands-on care, leaving nurses to do the nursing tasks, such as giving medications, doing dressings and treatments, assessing patients, teaching patients, and the many other things they have to do in a day.

Most nurses do appreciate what CNAs do, but sometimes they forget how tough a job CNAs may have. Theirs is a very physical job that can easily cause problems if they misjudge what they can and cannot do physically. They are also the first ones, usually, to hear complaints and problems, making them a sounding board for unhappy patients or families.

CNA duties

So, what does a CNA do? The tasks for nursing assistants may vary greatly depending on where they work. CNAs may find themselves:

- Toileting and bathing patients
- Lifting and transferring patients
- Walking patients (ambulating them) in the room or hallway
- Feeding patients
- Taking vital signs, such as temperature
- Providing skin care to prevent bedsores
- Making beds

This list is by no means complete, just a sample of some of the tasks assigned to nursing assistants.

Work places

Nursing assistants are needed in various areas of health care, from acute care hospitals to home care – and everywhere in between. Some areas hire more CNAs than others. Traditionally, long-term care areas use many nursing assistants as much of the care is basic, physical care.

But regardless of where CNAs work, they are a valuable part of the nursing care team and should be treated as one. After all, without the assistants, the nurses would be on their own.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is intended as a supplement, not as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.