What Does a CNA Do in a Hospital?

A Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) is an individual who provides care for patients or residents that are admitted to a hospital or long-term care facility. These individuals will typically work under the supervision of nurses and other healthcare professionals, assisting with basic tasks such as bathing, feeding, and dressing. The following are the most common roles performed by CNAs in a hospital, their work schedule, common challenges they face at work and how to avoid them. 

What Does a CNA Do?

Generally, a CNA works under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Providing complete patient care is the main responsibility. This includes brushing (teeth), bathing, feeding, assisting them during the walk, and in their daily activities including exercises.

Below is a list of roles CNA perform working in a hospital setting:

1. Taking viral Signs and Symptoms

You will typically be asked to take the patient’s temperature, pulse, and blood pressure as well as report these findings to a nurse. In some cases such as those involving children you may also be asked to assist with giving immunizations or inverting an infant after feeding.

2. Providing Bathing and Grooming

A CNA may provide basic grooming for patients such as bathing and shaving in addition to helping them with using the restroom and changing their clothes. CNAs might also help clean up any messes that result from these activities.

3. Feeding Patients

Patients who are unable to feed themselves may need assistance from a CNA that is trained in safe food preparation practices. They can prepare meals, serve food, and monitor mealtime in a patient’s room.

4. Assisting Patients with Using the Restroom

A CNA can help patients use the restroom and clean themselves when they are finished. CNAs may also change adult diapers when needed.

5. Assisting Patients with Dressing Changes

If a patient is unable to do so on their own, you may be asked to assist them in changing into surgical scrubs or hospital gowns when they are being prepped for surgery or procedures.

6. Inserting Catheters or Suppositories

In some cases you might be asked to insert a catheter tube into the bladder of a patient who is unable to do so on their own or to apply suppositories to relieve constipation.

7. Recording Vital Signs

You will typically be required to record information about your patient’s temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respirations, and weight at least once per shift before handing it over to a nurse for review.

8. Cleaning Rooms and Charting Progress

CNAs are responsible for making sure that rooms are kept clean, as well as laundering towels and linens when necessary. They also record information about the condition of patients after it has been assessed by nurses or medical staff members, such as reporting changes in temperature and blood pressure readings along with recording bowel and urinary activity.

9. Transporting Patients

You may transport patients between floors and areas within a hospital by operating elevators, wheelchairs and gurneys. Because many hospitals only allow personnel to transport patients without any medical equipment you may also be required to push manual wheelchairs when needed.

10. Cleaning and Maintaining Equipment

CNAs are responsible for the cleaning of supplies used in patient care, such as thermometers, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, or scales. You will also be expected to clean rooms and hallways when necessary.

11. Emptying Bedpans and Urinals

CNAs are usually responsible for helping patients empty their urinary bladders or bowel movements when they are unable to do so on their own.

12. Providing Basic Physical Therapy Assistance

When necessary, you might be asked to move a patient who is in traction or help them out of bed briefly until they are able to walk again on their own after an operation or procedure. You may also be required to help with range of motion exercises, applying hot or cold packs, dressing changes, and even administering injections.

13. Assisting with Medical Appointments

CNAs can provide support during medical appointments by transporting patients between the waiting room and exam room as well as by handing medical equipment to medical staff members when they need it.

14. Reporting Patient Status to Supervisors

Whenever a nurse or doctor enters a room you must report any changes that have taken place with the patient’s condition to them immediately. This includes changes in their vital signs as well as inability of patients to eat or drink without assistance.

15. Assisting with Discharge

When patients are ready to leave the hospital, CNAs can provide general assistance during discharge by helping them dress and gather their belongings together in preparation for leaving.

Below is a easy to understand table chart on what does a CNA do in a hospital.

Duties Description
Checking Vital Signs
  • Measuring blood pressure
  • Measuring body temperature
  • Measuring pulse rate
  • Measuring weight and height
Proper Dietary Care
  • Provide nutrients and supplements
  • Provide a liquid diet and healthy drinks
  • Make sure that the meals are provided at the proper time
  • Prepare meals as per the instruction of the dietitian
Medication and Drugs
  • Administer medicine from time to time
  • Provide a proper dose of medicine as prescribed by the doctor
  • Provide enema to the patients
Personal and Oral Hygiene
  • Take care of oral hygiene of the patients
  • Make sure that hair and nails are cut on time and kept clean
  • Provide a sponge bath to the patient everyday
  • Prevent bed sores by applying certain ointments
Collection of Sample
  • Collect blood sample for laboratory tests
  • The urine sample is also taken for performing certain tests in the lab
Environmental Cleanliness
  • Maintain cleanliness of the surrounding areas
  • Make sure that the visitors clean their hands with sanitizers while coming in contact with the patients
  • Make sure that the clothes of the patients are washed in antiseptic liquid
Toilet Needs
  • Empty the catheter bags
  • Provide bedpan, urinal, and commode
  • Check the toilet needs of the patients and make sure that bedpan or urinal is kept in a proper position
  • Make sure that the toilet is clean
  • Help the patients in visiting the toilet
Exercising and Mobility
  • Move the patients from one place to another
  • Help the patients in performing exercises as prescribed by the doctor
  • Repositioning the patient from a wheelchair to bed and vice versa
Patients Comforts and Relief
  • Prepare a bed for patients
  • Check the comfort of the patient from time to time
  • Answer the call of the patients immediately
  • Listen to the problem faced by the patients and try to rectify them as soon as possible
  • Keep the calling bell within the reach of the patients
  • Build a rapport with patients to develop a healthy relationship
  • Provide mental and emotional support to the elderly patients
Monitoring the Activities of Patients
  • Note down the changes that may arise
  • Report to the registered nurse or doctor about those changes
  • Prepare a chart for the patient’s development and keep it updated
  • Organize the files and records of the patients
Dressing Wounds
  • Clean the wounded area properly and apply ointment to it
  • Redress the wound from time to time
  • Be careful while dressing the wound and make sure that you follow all the precautionary measures so that infection is not caused
Assist in Daily Activities
  • Help the patients in brushing teeth, combing hair, shaving etc
  • Change the bed linens
  • Assist the patient in changing the clothes
  • Feed the bed-ridden patients
Maintaining Tools and Equipment
  • Taking care of the tools and equipment that are used during surgery
  • Sterilized the equipment after usage
  • Assist the doctors with equipment like ventilator, heart monitor or ECG (Electrocardiogram) monitor etc
Safety Measures
  • Ensure the safety precautions for the patients
  • Visit the patients from time to time to check if the oxygen cylinder, heartbeat monitor, etc are working properly or not
Assist the Doctor
  • Certified nursing assistants organize the operation table with needed equipment to help the doctors for performing an operation

CNA Work Schedule in Hospital Settings

CNA work is usually full-time and consistent. CNAs generally work 40-hour weeks and can be scheduled for early morning, late evening, night, or weekend shifts as needed.

The typical day-to-day responsibilities for CNAs vary depending on their specific job title and the type of care that they provide to patients. For example, a CNA who works in surgery provides different types of care than a CNA who works in an intensive care unit (ICU). However, there are several tasks that are important across all settings including:

  • Providing basic physical assistance such as transferring and positioning
  • Taking vital signs: recording temperature pulse blood pressure respirations weight and height
  • Assisting with personal care such as bathing toileting grooming and dressing
  • Monitoring patient conditions: reporting changes in patients’ physical or emotional states to nurses
  • Keeping the environment clean by cleaning equipment bedsides tables corner rails toilets counters bedrails trash receptacles and other areas that may need attention.

What are the Challenges CNA May Face Working in a Hospital?

The health care industry is growing at a very fast rate and with that comes new challenges for Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs). One of the main problems CNAs face is finding a job in which they can use their skills and education. May CNAs leave the profession within two years, most often because employers are unable to offer them permanent positions. Other reasons include wages, increasing liability insurance costs, and personal issues such as family matters.

Another challenge CNA face working in hospital setting has to do with technology. While many hospitals have made updating their technology a priority, it is still not common for patients to come equipped with medical devices such as external pacemakers and defibrillators (Curtis).

10 Tips to Become a Better CNA in a Hospital Setting

  1. Find out as much as possible about your facility and the list of procedures you will be expected to perform.
  2. Ask for an orientation from a more experienced CNA or ask your supervisor if there is anyone who can teach you new skills or answer questions that arise while you are working.
  3. Follow safety precautions carefully, such as wearing the proper protective gear when handling hazardous substances including needles and bedpans.
  4. When meeting a patient for the first time, introduce yourself and shake hands with them however the patient may need assistance in doing so themselves because of their current condition
  5. Communicate with other members of the health care team frankly and respectfully whether during morning report or while passing along information regarding a patient’s status at shift change.
  6. Follow facility policies and procedures when completing your work assignments including charting notes in the patient’s record about their condition or treatments you have provided.
  7. Be honest with patients and family members when answering questions, providing information, or warning them of any potential risks associated with medical treatment or procedure they are scheduled to undergo.
  8. Be mindful of confidentiality issues; never discuss patients’ medical conditions or treatments with anyone who is not directly involved in their care, including other family members.
  9. Pay attention to detail when documenting care activities you provide to each patient; every entry should be truthful accurate complete and legible (CNA Work).
  10. Take advantage of additional opportunities that may become available for training such as preparing sterile instruments for surgical procedures, taking vital signs using an electronic monitoring device called a pulse oximeter, performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and distributing medication at the proper time.

Benefits of Working in a Hospital Setting

CNAs in hospital settings earn higher average wages than other CNAs. The quality of the jobs is usually better, including more benefits and opportunities for career advancement than other areas. For example, a CNA that works in a skilled nursing facility may not be able to find a job that will pay them well enough to support themselves or their family.

In contrast, CNAs in hospitals tend to be offered insurance plans from their employers as well as subsidized housing on-site at some institutions (Life Care Planning). One of the biggest benefits is that you get experience working in many different departments all over a hospital setting, which can help when it comes time for you to find employment in your own area of interest (Graduate Nurse).

In summary

  • CNAs provide important support to medical staff members, Makes a great networking for career growth.
  • They can also expect steady employment in the health care industry
  • This is an entry-level job that offers opportunities for advancement and higher wages with experience
  • You will learn about many different types of medical equipment and procedures
  • Most hospitals offer career training programs to help CNAs continue their education.

A CNA is someone who works as a support profession in the medical field. Some CNAs choose to work with specific age groups such as children, adults or seniors. Other CNAs choose to focus on those within certain illnesses such as mental illness or physical disabilities.

Others still might decide that they want to concentrate their skills and experience working in an acute care environment performing procedures and documenting patient care. As you can tell from the benefits listed above, there are many very good reasons why pursuing employment as a Certified Nursing Assistant within a hospital setting may be just the right choice for you!