Nursing assistants work in medical settings providing direct patient care under the supervision of registered nurses (RN). They are primarily employed in nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private homes and medical centers. Although each state sets its own regulations regarding licensure, becoming a certified nursing assistant (CNA) generally requires completion of a 6- to 12-month training course and successful completion of a professional board exam. The qualities of a good CNA are similar to those that are required in every medical profession.
Compassion and Emotional Stability
CNAs work in environments in which they see people when they are at their most vulnerable. Patients who are injured or ill can be irritable, anxious, impatient or depressed. CNAs may see people who are seriously injured, or even dying, and must be able to provide comfort and remain calm in such situations. Many of the tasks that CNAs perform are unpleasant, such as changing bedpans or dressing wounds. Being an effective CNA requires compassion and the ability to put patients at ease when they are in physical or emotional pain.
It is vital that an employer, whether an individual, office or hospital, is able to trust a nursing assistant. CNAs have access to medical records that contain both personal health information and identifying data. For those who work in private homes, they may also assist the individual with personal tasks such as banking. Perhaps most importantly, because CNAs spend long periods of time with individuals providing direct care, patients often choose to confide in them about both medical and personal matters. Nursing assistants must understand the importance, both legally and ethically, of confidentiality.
CNAs must be able to complete a wide range of duties, to work independently when necessary and to take whatever task comes their way. In most settings, a nursing assistant sees different patients every day, and as people are all unique, so is each day on the job. Although the exact duties of CNAs are dependent upon the type of health care setting that she works in, typically they include taking vital signs; monitoring patient's condition; bathing, grooming and other personal care; changing linens; and transporting patients or medical equipment. Nursing assistants may work odd hours or long or rotating shifts, dependent upon the health care facility's staffing protocol.
Effective Communication Skills
CNAs must be able to convey information regarding a patient's condition to other individuals on the health care team. They are responsible for keeping records, such as input/output or vital signs, and for documenting the care that they provide to a patient in the medical record. The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants estimates that in many cases, nursing assistants provide 80 to 90 percent of direct patient care. This puts them in an important position in serving as an advocate for the patient, as well as relaying his needs to other health care personnel.
The working conditions for a CNA dictate that she will be on her feet for the majority of her working hours. Nursing assistants are responsible for moving medical equipment and for transporting and, in some cases, lifting patients. CNAs are also exposed to illness on a regular basis and should be in general good health without underlying medical conditions that can make them vulnerable to infection.
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