A CNA job description includes assisting nurses with hands-on care of patients. Work environments include hospitals, skilled rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, hospice facilities, physician offices, and assisted living facilities. Training to become a CNA occurs at trade colleges, some nursing homes, and is also provided by the Red Cross. There are online courses available as well, but be warned that many states have not approved this type of training. When choosing any program, make sure it is approved by the state in which you wish to practice. Following training, CNAs must take a competency exam which includes a written and clinical part.
Under the direction of a nurse, the CNA job description may involve taking vital signs, bathing and dressing patients, transferring patients, feeding patients, performing oral care and grooming, and keeping up patient rooms. The duties you perform are largely dependent on what type of facility you choose. For example, at a physician’s office you are more likely to be taking vital signs and information from patients, whereas in a nursing home you are often the primary caregiver for your patients and will be bathing, grooming, and meeting other basic needs. The most variety in CNA tasks is likely found in a hospital setting, where CNA duties change significantly based on which wing of the hospital they are assigned. Since CNA jobs are plentiful, many CNAs first take whatever position is available to them and eventually move into the type of patient care they most enjoy.
The knowledge base of CNAs is similar to nurses. CNAs work with patients of all ages, from infants to elderly adults. CNAs need to know medical terminology, legal aspects such as patient rights, infection control, medical documentation skills, how to perform CPR, and how to safely transfer patients. An important skill for CNAs is communication, both with patients and coworkers. While CNAs take orders only from nurses, they are the most hands-on part of the healthcare team and will be required to communicate with doctors and therapists as well.
Schedules are usually flexible in CNA work, although when first beginning a new position you may be given the least desirable shifts. There are overnight shifts as well as daytime shifts. Many CNAs are able to work part-time or on a relief schedule (as substitutes who are called when a regularly scheduled CNA is out). In most facilities, you’ll work closely with other CNAs who are on your same shift schedule. CNAs are usually assigned a few patients whose care they manage for the entire shift, however CNAs often require assistance from each other for transferring or repositioning patients.
The CNA job description makes for busy and sometimes challenging days, however the flexible schedule and joy of caring for others are benefits to this career path. Additionally, the relatively cheap and quick training mean that you could be a practicing CNA just months after making a career choice. Because nearly all medical facilities employ multiple CNAs each shift, CNA jobs can be found anywhere in the country.