Now that you have acquired your CNA Certification you can begin working as a Certified Nursing Assistant. You’ll work closely with nurses and other medical staff to provide patients and residents complete care. While you may not be faced with the term “Nursing Process” during your daily duties, it’s within this process that your entire career is based. To help clarify common questions when it comes to the nursing process and your work as a certified nursing assistant, this article breaks down the various elements of the entire nursing department.
Certified Nursing Assistants are A Part of the Medical Team
The medical team all CNAs work with is broken down into various layers. The first layer, or the foundational layer, is the patient. The entire reason you have a job is because of this patient. The next layer is the doctor/physician. These are the most knowledgeable out of all medical staff and its with their direction that nurses, and ultimately CNAs, operate. The next layer is RNs or LPNs. While these medical professionals don’t have the same quantity of training that a doctor must go through, they are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to caring for patients. Lastly, you have CNAs. These professionals may be on the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to rankings, but their value and importance is just as influential as the other medical team members.
The Nursing Process
Now that you have a better understanding of the placement a CNA has within the entire medical team, it’s time to delve into the actual nursing process. While this may vary based upon who you speak with, the most basic definition of the nursing process encompasses five primary elements, which include:
- Patient Assessment – This is the foundation of the entire process. During the assessment phase, nurses and physicians gather current and historical patient health information. Generally, this is done through a three step process: (1) Obtain medical history (2) Perform a thorough physical examination of the patient (3) Review supplementary information, such as lab results.
- Nurse Diagnoses – After the assessment is complete, the registered nurse assigned to the patient will review preliminary information and make a surface-level diagnoses. RNs have a major responsibility within the initial phases of patient care as they must gather accurate information and relay this info to doctors so the doctor has a better understanding of what the patient is going through. This process involves a significant amount of objective and subjective observations.
- Outline of Needed Care – Also referred to as the “Care Plan,” this term refers to the course of actions recommended by the nursing and physician staff regarding treatment options for a patient. The Care Plan is a legal document that describes the level of care and procedures to support this care. In order to ensure the patient is properly tended to, all staff must adhere to the instructions detailed within this document.
- Patient Interventions – While the aforementioned steps are vital to patient care and recovery, CNAs have very little to do with the process until this step. Based upon the information outlined in the Care Plan, CNAs begins tending to the patient. This includes meeting the hygiene and quality of life processes outlined in the document. During the intervention process, CNAs work closely with patients and are often the first to notify nursing staff is a particular treatment plan or health routine is not effective for the patient.
- Patient Evaluation – Finally, the last step involved in the nursing process is patient evaluation. This is done after the Care Plan has been created and implemented over a period of time. It’s during this phase doctors, nurses and CNAs gather and discuss the effectiveness of particular treatments. Based upon the objective data that has been gathered, these professionals determine if the Care Plan should be altered or continued as written.
When you work in any professional environment, there are various professional outlooks you must adopt. While your mental outlook regarding your work is vital when it comes to sustaining professional performance, in the realm of certified nursing assistants there are several specific qualities you must strive for. Of course, the final outlooks you must adopt will vary based upon your employer and standing within the medical team, as a CNA you must follow several established guidelines to retain the respect of your peers.
CNA Essentials: Your Appearance
In the realities of nursing, it may seem that your appearance is rather dull. While you can’t wear the latest designer trends while on the floor, how you appear plays a direct role in how nurses, physicians and patients view your capabilities. The truth of the matter – your appearance is one of the most important aspects of gaining the respect and trust of those you work for and with. As a general guideline, always make sure:
- Uniforms are not wrinkled or stained. Dirty uniforms are not only visually unattractive, but if they’re soiled by patient fluids or other contaminants you could accidentally spread infections or germs to other staff and patients.
- Avoid wearing strong scented perfumes, body washes or deodorants. Due to the various allergies and sensitivities of your co-workers and patients, it’s essential that you avoid strong fragrances. Wear fragrance-free deodorant and avoid spraying cologne or perfume while on the job.
- Keep your makeup simple. This is not a time or place to get all “dolled up.” Along the same lines, keep your nails trimmed. Avoid wearing artificial nails as they are difficult to clean and can accidentally spread infections to patients.
CNA Essentials: Your Work Ethic
While this is one of the most common sense aspects of conducting yourself in a professional manner, far too many CNAs drop the ball when it comes to establishing and maintaining a proper work ethic. According to CNACertification Scoop these are the guidelines you should follow:
- Confirm all shifts prior to the scheduled day. Due to the constant staffing changes hospitals and other large medical clinics see, confirmation of your scheduled shifts is necessary.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early to every shift. This is especially important when working in hospitals. In order to get “up to speed” with your patients and the current activity, you’ll likely need to spend extra time reading documents and discussing your daily duties with the charge nurse. It’s best to do this before you’re expected to deal with patients to ensure your time on the clock is well-spent.
- Strive to maintain the highest level of honesty – even when you must admit to a mistake. One of the hardest things for CNAs to admit is a mistake that jeopardized the treatment or comfort of a patient. Instead of trying to cover up your mistakes, immediately notify your supervising nurse or physician. The sooner you call attention to a mistake, the faster it may be rectified. This could mean the world of difference in regards to the comfort and safety of a patient.
Once you have these CNA essentials down, you will see how your colleagues notice and respect your professionalism and work ethic.
While the certified nursing assistant career is classified as an “entry level” position, it is far from entry level. If you’re interested in becoming a CNA then you will be required to undergo a specified amount of training, as outlined by your State Board of Licensing. Aspiring CNAs must endure one final hurdle in their quest to becoming a bonafide CNA – passing the CNA exam. While each state regulates the contents of the exam, the basic components are universal. If you’re curious about this career path, then it’s essential that you familiarize yourself with this career-changing exam. One of the ways to ensure your training is current, is to take CNA classes online through a cutting edge institution. The benefits to online classes is that you are always up-to-date with the latest medical information, and you can chose from a national pool of schools to attend.
CNA Exam Preparation
Planning for your examination isn’t exactly a “part” of the exam, but rather a required step to ensure you pass. Due to the complexity and layout of this exam, practicing is essential. While there are literally hundreds of study guides and practice tests available online to aspiring CNAs, the best plan of action is directly communicating with your State Licensing Board to obtain a list of recommended study guides. This is essential because not every state features the same examination. Therefore, you must strive to study specific elements within your newly formed knowledge base to enhance your odds of success.
CNA Exam – Theoretical Exam
The theoretical portion of the examination is also referred to as the written test. The primary purpose of this exam module is to test your working knowledge of basic and advanced ideas and theories covered during training. Each topic is one that’s been carefully chosen as it’s commonly seen during the daily duties as a CNA. Basic elements that are covered include knowledge regarding specific procedures as well as how to effectively deal with patients with specific scenarios. Even though the information within the exam can vary, all state’s feature a multiple choice exam layout for this portion.
CNA Exam – Practical Exam
The practical portion of the examination is where aspiring CNAs is able to physically demonstrate what they’ve learned during their training program. This is the most important part of your examination as it showcases your physical ability to perform necessary tasks. While the Candidate Handbook for CNAs (distributed by your State Licensing Board or found online) offers specific examples of tasks you’ll be asked to perform, exact procedures can vary. Generally, the practical examination covers various scenarios and is carried out by the exam evaluator who instantly notifies if you’ve passed or failed specific scenarios. Typically, you’ll have a chance to stop your current actions if you notice you’re doing it incorrectly. By doing so, you must inform the evaluator that you made a mistake, explain what you did wrong and begin again. Most times, this does not count as a penalty.
So you’re considering a career as a certified nursing assistant? Maybe you’ve just completed your CNA training and are ready to branch out into the real world of nursing. While this is a highly rewarding career, the amount of information you must master can be overwhelming. While starting any new job can be frustrating and anxiety-driven, this is even more so with a career as a certified nursing assistant. Thankfully, much like any other career, after you’ve gained experience these anxieties will begin to melt. In order to help streamline your career choice as a CNA, the following tips are designed to streamline the basic elements of success as a CNA.
Clarifying Employer Expectations
One of the biggest sources of confusion and anxiety for new CNAs doesn’t involve the actual duties of this position, as you’ve been thoroughly trained, but rather how your communication and duties relate to your employer. In order to help simplify and streamline this transition period, ask your current or potential employer the following questions:
- What is the uniform policy? Does the company help offset the cost of acquiring necessary uniforms?
- How often are performance reviews given? With a successful review, is there an opportunity for pay increases?
- What are the in-service hour requirements? Will the facility be able to offer the regulated 12-hour shift minimums?
- What level of benefits does the company offer? When do these benefits begin?
While these are the most basic questions you should ask a potential employer, it’s a great starting point to open dialogue.
Every CNA should carry a few essential items with them whenever they start a shift. While these items can vary based upon the exact patients you’ll be dealing with, most preparation kits should include:
- A working pen with a small pad of paper to take instant notes – this is essential when dictating subjective observations for the nursing staff or to take quick notes from your supervisors.
- Extra pairs of gloves – in the nursing world, you can never have too many gloves on hand.
- Tape measure – there are times when you must measure either the patient or pieces of equipment.
- Blood pressure kit. While maybe not appropriate for all CNAs, a portable blood pressure kit could save you tons of time when doing your rounds and checking vitals. You may also save the day when a nurse or physician requires an instant blood pressure reading.