What is a certified nurse's aide?

A certified nurse’s aide or assistant, (CNA) works under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). A certified nurse’s aide works in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day care centers and private homes. The responsibilities of the CNA will vary based on the work setting but in general the CNA helps patients or clients with their healthcare needs such as bathing, dressing, feeding or mobility.  The CNA’s role does not include assessing the patient’s condition, administering medications or teaching the patient or family about medical conditions or self care.

A certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a health care provider who has invested the necessary hours in classroom training, passed a written exam, and demonstrated in clinical observation that they can provide "direct care" to patients. These skills include: bathing, grooming, dressing, feeding, transferring (i.e.: from bed to chair) elders and others. They work under the supervision of the nursing staff, and report changes in their patients' condition, have documentation responsibilities dictated by stringent health care regulations - and often take the heat when things go wrong. Although the details may vary from state to state, there are continuing education requirements, and regular re-certification time intervals that must be met to maintain certification. CNA's are the backbone of direct care provided to our elders in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The work is physically hard, and emotionally draining. Pay is low, and hours can be long. Occasionally, and with great fanfare, things go terribly wrong. These are the stories that make front page news. But for the most part, CNA's are truly some of the "unsung heroes" of our health care system.

On a personal note: Many thanks to any CNA's who read this, from a former Director of Nursing in Long Term Care. It is an honor and a privilege to have worked with you.

Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine
Mr. David Hoffman, former assistant United States attorney, says, "The certified nurse's aide provides the most direct care. It is the aide who is changing, bathing, feeding and dressing. The successful facilities understand that these people need to be shown that they are valued in their work and that there is an understanding of why it is important that certain things happen. There is a concerted effort to educate the whole staff to make them feel invested." When that happens, staff is happier and tends to stay in the job longer and that consistency is vital for good patient care.

"The successful ones have really incorporated a multidisciplinary response to problems. They do rounds, they evaluate people and they just don't apply the same protocol to everyone. There is individualized care. That takes time and effort and also takes a system in which everyone feels invested. I find for the most part that people care for these residents. It's hard not to. You would not be in this industry if you didn't. But how that gets translated into good care at one place and goes totally out the window at another is a different story."
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.