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A Close-Up Look at a CNA’s Job Description

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A certified nursing assistant (CNA) works in a hospital, clinic or in a nursing home. With their direct interaction to patients, they are considered as an essential link between the patient and the registered nurse. Because of the complexity of their roles, training is essential to become a certified nursing assistant.

Training prepares potential individuals for the roles they are about to perform. Training can hone skills in many areas, including how to deal with patients in various conditions. Essentially, it teaches students the proper ways to carry out their duties and provides them with in-depth knowledge on how to perform emergency procedures while remaining calm even if the situation is tensed.

Above all, certified nursing assistants are taught to have a clear head and a steady nerve during critical emergencies.

Here’s a great video that goes into the day-to-day duties and responsibilities that a CNA might carry out:

What does a CNA do?

CNA duties and responsibilities are truly wide ranging. They commonly participate in the nursing process by carrying out various activities. For a detailed CNA job description see each task and what’s involved.

Assessment & Planning Care

Check and record vital signs; measure height and weight; measure intake and output; collect specimens; test urine; observe patient response to care; report and record observations of patient’s conditions.

Assessment & Planning CareCheck and record vital signs; measure height and weight; measure intake and output; collect specimens; test urine; observe patient response to care; report and record observations of patient’s conditions.
Nutrition & Elimination NeedsCheck and pass food trays; feed patients; provide fresh drinking water and nourishment; assist with bed pans, urinals and commodes; empty urine collection bags; assist with colostomy care; give enemas; observe faeces and urine; monitor intake and output.
Mobility NeedsTurn and position patients; provide range of motion exercises; transfer patients to wheelchair/stretcher; assist with ambulation.
Personal Hygiene & Grooming DutiesBathe patients; provide nail and hair care; assist with oral hygiene; provide denture care; shave patients; assist with dressing and undressing.
Comfort & Anxiety Relief DutiesProtect patient privacy and maintain confidentiality; keep call signals within patient’s reach; answer call signal promptly; provide orientation to the room or unit and to other visitors and patients; assist patients with communication; protect personal possessions; provide diversional activities; give back rubs; prepare hot and cold applications.
Safety & Environment DutiesMake beds; clean and care for equipment; carry out isolation precautions; practice medical asepsis and infection control; practice standard precautions; observe oxygen precautions.
Management & Efficiency DutiesAdmit, transfer and discharge patients; transport patients; take specimen to lab; assist with special procedures; telephone answering; document and assist in unit record-keeping.

Tools used by CNAs at work

Certified nursing assistants use the following tools:

  • Stethoscope
  • Gait belt
  • Surgical scissors
  • Thermometer
  • Protective gear
  • Aids for the disabled

Where do CNAs work?

Not everyone can be a nurses aide! Certified nursing assistants are truly special people; they genuinely care for others, take great pride in their work. Skilled nursing assistants who are diligent make a valuable contribution to a patient’s comfort and safety when they are at their most vulnerable.

CNAs have a wide choice of work settings to choose from – however hospitals, residential facilities and private home settings are the most popular workplaces.


In the hospital setting, the work of a certified nursing assistant is physically demanding.  There is also a constant turnover of patients. That means, the patients you took care of yesterday may not be the same patients you will be dealing with tomorrow. The range of patients you are going to interact with will for sure vary from day to day.

Private home set-up

You may also work in a private home set up. In this type of setting, you will be interacting one-on-one with the same patient each day. It allows you to be more like a trusted friend to your patient, rather than just a nursing assistant. Your duties in this setting are slightly different from your duties in a hospital setting. In here, you may be tasked to do laundry or light cooking. If you are lucky enough to take care of a nice patient, then this can be a rewarding experience for you!

Residential facility

You may also opt to work in a residential facility, like assisted-living facilities, retirement homes, and the like. Just like a private home set up, the work environment in this setting allows you to be closer with your patients and some of them may become your friends. You can get to know them thoroughly by studying their moods, medical needs, as well as their likes and dislikes.

Whether you choose a hospital setting, private home, or residential facility, your duties can be rewarding and at the same time very challenging. Because of that, it is essential that you weigh your options first before considering where to work as a CNA. You should consider the work environment that you think that offers the most rewarding tasks.

How many hours does a CNA work?

The typical number of hours a certified nursing assistant can work will vary. But full-time CNAs are working 40 hours a week. Some of them may work in the evenings and weekends. They may also be required to work during the holidays.

Is the CNA job a stable career?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNA employment is projected to grow by 21% from 2012-2022. Despite cuts to the Medicare and Medicaid programs there are ample job opportunities in the home health care services and community based care settings as patients preference and government funding shifts.

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