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8 Duties of a CNA

Meta Title: Some of the Typical Duties of a CNA and the Qualities Needed to Carry Them Out

As a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you play an important role in the day-to-day care and quality of life of the patients you serve.

Under the supervision of a nurse, you’ll work closely with multiple patients to ensure they’re comfortable, happy, and well-cared for. Here’s what you need to know about the work of a CNA.

Certified Nursing Assistant Duties

As defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNAs “assist with basic care or support under the direction of the onsite licensed nursing staff.” According to Aims Education, CNAs “work less with doctors and more directly with nurses” and “their duties relate directly to hands-on care and patient support, but they wear many hats throughout any regular working day.”

O*NET compiled an extensive list of duties and responsibilities CNAs tackle daily, which includes the following:

1. Patient assistance with daily living tasks

Assisting patients is what immediately comes to mind when thinking of a CNA’s responsibilities. Helping patients complete daily living tasks is one of the most important duties CNAs perform. This includes dressing, toileting, walking, exercising, and turning or repositioning patients.

2. Personal hygiene assistance

Patients who most often receive care from CNAs are the elderly or those recovering from injury or surgery. As such, these patients typically have a difficult time tending to their hygiene needs unassisted. To aid in their patients’ recovery, It is of the utmost importance that CNAs help to keep their patients as clean and well-groomed as possible. This includes assisting patients with bathing, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, shaving, caring for their nails, and assistance with toileting. 

3. Monitoring patient condition/vital signs

As with most healthcare positions, CNAs are responsible for monitoring their patients’ overall condition and taking their vital signs.  Often the nurses will task the CNa’s with taking and recording the patient’s pulse, temperature, weight, blood pressure, food intake, urinary and fecal output, and pain level every day. Be sure to set a schedule for taking vitals throughout the day with your supervisor to ensure accuracy and consistency.

4. Basic housekeeping

Another common responsibility for CNAs is basic housekeeping. Even if you aren’t working in a home care setting, CNAs often assist their patients with cleaning their immediate environment, including cleaning the bathroom and changing the linens every few days. If you are working in home care, CNAs are often responsible for helping patients with the upkeep of their kitchen, bathroom, and living areas.

5. Dietary planning & feeding

Due to the changes in their health, a lot of patients must alter their diet and eating habits to aid in their recovery. CNAs help patients with dietary planning, which includes reviewing their food allergies, dietary restrictions, and preferences so CNAs can structure the best nutritional plan for their patients. As with assisting with daily living tasks and basic housekeeping, CNAs help feed patients when needed and help patients prepare their meals in home care settings.

6. Answering calls for assistance

As part of the front line response team, CNAs answer patients’ calls for assistance. These calls for assistance can range from helping patients go to the bathroom to providing emotional support to patients who are recovering from injury or surgery.

7. Reporting on patient conditions to RN/LPN

Since CNAs are one of the first points of contact for patients entering the hospital or facility, they’re also responsible for gathering information from family members and caregivers as well as observing patient behavior, complaints, and physical condition during their stay. CNAs must also successfully report all patient information and observations to the RN or LPN on duty.

8. Emotional support for patients 

Hospital stays or long-term residencies in a nursing home or facility are extremely stressful situations, for both the patient and their families. As a CNA, one of your primary areas of focus is to provide emotional support and companionship to the patients under your care.

What Qualities Do You Need to Carry Out the Duties of a CNA?

CNAs function as the go-between for patients and the rest of the medical and health care staff. As such, CNAs need to possess a variety of qualities and skills to successfully navigate and fulfill such a wide swath of responsibilities.

O*NET compiled a comprehensive list of these qualities, which includes:

  • Being service-oriented. Like most professionals in the health care industry, CNAs need to enjoy helping people. Having compassion for your patients and offering them support during a challenging time in their lives is crucial for being a successful CNA.
  • Possessing excellent communication skills. CNAs need to possess excellent communication and active listening skills. CNAs need to be able to focus completely on their patients in order to accurately monitor their condition. And because CNAs spend the most amount of time with their patients, they need to be able to communicate their observations to the RN or LPN.
  • Staying physically fit. CNA typically work long shifts, spending the majority of the time on their feet. As such, CNAs need to be strong and fit in order to keep up with the taxing physical demands of the job, such as support and shifting patients in bed, aiding patients with walking and exercising, and transferring patients our of bed to a stationary chair or wheelchair.
  • Showing empathy. Because the position requires you to spend so much time with their patients, CNAs need to be able to empathize with those under their care. Being personable and good-natured can help you better relate to your patients and help you provide the emotional support they need to heal.
  • Being dependable and flexible. Due to the number of different tasks and responsibilities associated with the position, CNAs need to be flexible when it comes to their daily schedule. And because CNAs usually work in shifts, you’ll have a rotating roster of patients and tasks to attend to. CNAs also need to be able to establish and maintain schedules for taking vital measurements and distributing medication.

Looking for per-diem work as a CNA? Pick up shifts with Clipboard Health. Clipboard Health is revolutionizing healthcare staffing by paving the way in reliability, affordability, and ease of use for both facilities and healthcare professionals. Our platform makes life easier for healthcare professionals, facilities, and patients.

Justine Nelson

Justine Nelson RN, BSN, has been a registered nurse for over 11 years with experience in home health, community health, school based nursing and healthcare based tech startups. Justine is passionate about developing new and innovative roles for nurses outside of traditional nursing roles. She currently serves as an RN content Specialist for Clipboard Health.

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