Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) play a critical role in our healthcare system. While nurses and doctors get most of the glory, most hospitals and long-term care facilities would crumble without their team of dedicated CNAs.
It’s essential, therefore, that CNAs get the respect and recognition they deserve, and with National CNA Week starting on June 15th this year, there’s no time like the present to do so!
So, why are CNAs so important to our healthcare system? Let’s look at the four most important reasons.
1. They Provide Essential Patient Care
CNAs are often the healthcare workers responsible for hands-on tasks with patient care, sometimes even more so than nurses.
In hospitals or long-term care facilities, CNA tasks typically include the following:
- Drawing blood
- Collecting urine or fecal samples
- Cleaning, bathing, or changing the patient
- Grooming patients, including helping with teeth brushing and hair combing
- Helping the patient use the bathroom
- Turning or moving patients
- Checking routine vital signs, like heart rate and blood pressure
- Answering patient calls
- Collecting medical supplies
- Changing the patient’s bedsheets
- Helping patients eat
This care is crucial for patients who need it, and it can not only help provide patients with the care they need but also help them to maintain a higher level of dignity. They don’t need to depend on an overworked nurse to find time between emergent cases or an unwilling family member to help bathe them; they can get help from a trained and experienced CNA.
2. They Provide Companionship to Patients & Families
In many cases, CNAs may have more time to talk to patients and their families, whereas nurses need to move on to the next patient quickly. They can spend more time interacting with the patients and their loved ones, helping them to feel like they’re cared for and not being overlooked.
As they provide companionship, CNAs also build a rapport with the patients and families, which can be an enormous asset. Patients who trust their healthcare providers are more likely to comply with healthcare directives and be satisfied with their care.
And, as patients trust their CNAs, they may let slip some information they had previously not disclosed. One study found that 60-80% of patients surveyed said that they did not disclose something relevant to their health to doctors, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for additional information to help your team best treat each patient.
The rapport and relationships that CNAs build with patients could have a significant impact on how patients perceive care and even the care that doctors prescribe.
3. They Support Nurses
Nurses, as we all know, have a difficult job. They’re responsible for administering medications, monitoring patients, and documenting patient symptoms. In some cases, they may even help with life-saving emergent care.
Because nurses have such important and challenging job roles, they need all the help they can get. CNAs can take on that role, offering support to nurses who are already stretched thin.
4. They May Act as Patient Advocates
In some facilities, CNAs spend more time with the patient than anyone else on the healthcare team. They may be responsible for helping monitor the patient’s condition between visits from the nurse or primary healthcare provider.
As a result, they may notice patient symptoms, concerns, or behaviors that the patient’s healthcare team may have otherwise missed. As a result, they can help advocate for the patient, alerting other healthcare team members, which is particularly important if the patient’s family isn’t able to visit regularly. Patients and their families feel great comfort knowing that an extra person is looking out for their well-being.
While we have four distinct reasons listed above, the ultimate answer to the question “Why are CNAs important?” is that they’re crucial for patient care. All healthcare organizations strive for the highest level of patient care at all times, which is why CNAs are so important both to the patient and the healthcare system.
And with National CNA Week upon us, consider the following as a way to express your thanks to the CNAs on your team:
- Provide a catered lunch from a popular restaurant
- Collect gift cards or freebies from local vendors
- Give team members a hand-written letter thanking them for their hard work
- Talk to your team and ask for any feedback, and take it seriously into consideration
- Organize theme days, where CNAs are encouraged to dress like their favorite superhero or in their best 60’s-inspired attire
- Start a program where you feature a “CNA of the week,” acknowledging team members for a job well done
Above all else, make sure you’re saying thank you and that the CNAs on your team know you mean it. Healthcare can be a chaotic work environment, but letting them know they’re appreciated and valued can go a long way.
What are you doing to celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week? And if you’re a CNA, how do you wish your healthcare organization would celebrate? Share your thoughts in our community!