They’re not doctors. They aren’t really nurses. For many people who aren’t familiar with the medical profession, the job of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is something of a mystery. Sure, we see them all the time when we go to visit a sick friend in the hospital or Grandma in the nursing home, but their true purpose eludes some of us.
This occasionally prompts questions and sometimes embarrassed confessions from new acquaintances that they have no idea what you do. If you haven’t been in that situation yet and want to avoid it, here are some questions that people ask CNAs about their jobs all the time.
What Exactly Do You Do?
Many people are under the impression that nurses do all of the doctor’s dirty work. The way the hospital food chain really works, however, is a little more hierarchical. After initial treatment, the busy doctors pass on much of the patient’s care to the nurses. Being certified to perform a wide variety of tasks, from performing minor invasive procedures all the way down to wiping bottoms, the LPNs and RNs on the floor focus on the work that only they are qualified to do, passing the rest down to the CNAs. This leaves the CNAs responsible for helping the nurses care for patients by assisting them while they walk, clothing them, feeding them, and so on.
So All You Do Is Wipe Behinds?
No, of course not. While much of patient care at the CNA level does involve spending a large amount of time with patients’ behinds, they have many other duties as well. For example, before being able to do anything with a patient, many caregivers find that know what’s wrong with the patient is rather helpful. This requires the CNA to learn medical terminology and documentation techniques to properly read a patient chart. They must also learn how to administer CPR, check vitals, properly move a patient, and a number of other skills.
So How Do You Become A CNA?
Becoming a CNA is a matter of passing a class that meets the licensing requirements of your state. These can usually be taken through a local Red Cross section and are also offered by many community colleges. Most of the courses last about three weeks and involve both in class lectures and clinical training. After you successfully complete the course, your instructors will schedule you for a competency exam that’s required by your state.
Keep in mind that some hospitals will require you to have other certifications beyond your basic CNA licensing. Not to worry, many employers will either provide the training to you free of charge or pay for you to take the necessary courses once they hire you.
As you can see, although nurses take care of the majority of the patient’s medical needs, the certified nurses assistants are their workhorses. Without them, already understaffed hospitals would have serious issues in regard to patient care. Be sure to thank your CNA the next time that you visit Grandma!
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Bryan Kaufman is a CNA who recently contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Online Certified Nursing Assistant Programs.