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The Skills a Nursing Assistant Must be Able to Perform

There is a basic skill set that applies to the CNA profession. Making sure you’re qualified, willing, and able to perform all the duties of a nursing assistant is a good way to firm up your confidence about your ability to succeed in the field. It also can help you decide if the field is for you if you are just getting into it.

What follows is a list of the main nursing assistant skills and job functions. Mostly deal with the ability to help patients with ADL’s – activities of daily living. It is important to realize, however, that a still more important function of a nursing assistant is the performance of emergency procedures as well as medical observation and reporting. That is, CNA’s must be adept at the speedy assessment of the health status or condition of a patient – either so that they can report it to a nurse or doctor, or if there isn’t time, take action themselves.

Thus, a CNA is vital to the safety and care of patients and the efficiency of the hospital in general. They may even be called on to save a life. This should show you, if you’re a CNA or considering becoming one, just how vital your role could be, and that you should never consider yourself unimportant – as though you are only doing “low level” work.

This is not an exhaustive list, only an overview. Consult with your particular educational or institution or car facility for a complete job description and list of duties.

  • CPR Certification and knowledge of emergency procedures. The CNA must be able to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation as well as use the “Code Blue” terminology. Code Blue is a verbal statement that a patient has gone into cardiac or respiratory arrest. Note: additional of training may be required for this than what is offered for the entry level CNA position.
  • Reports changes in patient condition. This involves being able to spot changes in vital signs such as heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and temperature first and foremost.
  • Upholds patient rights. The CNA makes sure the patients’ rights to things like privacy, being informed about procedures, their right to participate in designing their own care plan, confidentiality rights, the right to accept or refuse treatment, and a number of
  • others.
  • Answers verbal requests for care and assistance of call lights. The CNA must be quick to respond to a patient that makes a care request whether that is in verbal form or with a call light.
  • Deals with and reports patient incidents. If a patient falls, becomes agitated, or some other incident relating to the safety of the patient or others occurs, the CNA must be able to assist in the immediate situation and subsequently report it to a nurse or doctor.
  • Understands and is able to implement fire and safety precautions. The nursing assistant must know where fire exits are and be able to direct patients to the nearest one, as well as knowing about  and observing other basic safety procedures at the hospital.

The rest of the CNA responsibilities fall mainly into the category of assistance with the activities of routine safety, hygiene, and daily living (ADL’s). They include the following, but are not limited to it – again this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Helping patients with perambulation (i.e. walking), in an out of wheel chairs, with walkers, etc.
  • Helping reposition patients in beds or elsewhere.
  • Administer restraints if necessary – side rails on beds, hand or foot restraints, roll belts, Geri-chairs, and so on.
  • Application of anti-embolic stockings. These are long socks worn by patients at risk of circulatory problems.
  • Changing urine catch bags.
  • Hygiene. Maintains patient and room cleanliness, and washes hands regularly before and after dealing with patients. Makes beds.
  • Serves food to patients.
  • Measures patient height and weight.
  • Bathes patients.
  • Administering certain mediations and ointments.
  • Administration of K pads and ice packs.
  • Helps patients with excretory functions.
  • Transport patients in non ambulatory situations – gurneys, wheelchairs, etc.
  • Skin and hair care
  • Tooth care such as brushing – whether patient is conscious or unconscious.
  • Monitoring IVs.
  • There are some other skills that require additional training. These are a good place to start if you’re considering increasing your skill set and asking for a higher hourly rate:
  • Perform EKG (electrocardiogram)
  • Perform bladder scans
  • Adjust oxygen flow rate for patients requiring oxygen.
  • CPA as mentioned above.

So as you can see, there is quite a lot involved in being a CNA. Your part in the overall health team is very important, even potentially critical in certain situations. Take this career choice seriously and always consider ways you can improve your skill levels. This insures that you will be competent and proud of your work, and will lead to a natural process of career advancement as your training, knowledge and experience expands and extends.

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