Posted: 1/21/2019 9:43:53 AM

Five Survival Tips for the Anxious CNA

Nursing assistants are taught how to spot, calm, and comfort anxious patients. But, for many CNAs who work nonstop on low-staffed shifts in high-turnover work environments, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle and they fail to recognize that they, themselves, are anxious.

A little anxiety now and then is normal, even healthy, considering that you’re triggering your brain to be more alert and responsive. But, because the healthcare industry is riddled with uncertainty, illness, and death, anxiety among workers like nursing assistants is typical, and it’s often normal to feel overwhelmed or under attack.

Newbie CNAs, for example, struggle with clumsiness due to a lack of confidence. They can also be very idealistic, eager to perform every procedure “by the book”—never mind how long it takes to finish. Nurses or veteran CNAs might seem to be watching their every move, pouncing the minute a CNA makes a mistake. Things can escalate quickly, and anxiety turns to panic.

Some CNAs, especially those in hospice, deal with death anxiety, or the uneasy feeling of having to face the reality that they will also die someday, and suffer discomfort and uncertainty as a result.

Anxiety among nursing assistants can also come from environments where the workplace breeds a culture of fear. Bullying is common in nursing and CNAs are one of the most frequent victims. Accounts of bullying tell of nursing assistants who are too fearful to go to work because they anticipate a possibly stressful encounter with their bully coworker.

Severe or long-term anxiety is no good for CNAs who already have their hands full. While every CNA just wants to help patients and be good at what they do, if they worry excessively about work, they can become inefficient.

They lose focus on their tasks, so they tend to accomplish less or make mistakes. This results in a cycle of more stress and anxiety. The outcome is physical and emotional burnout in the CNA, and possibly injury to a patient. It can also lead to depression and other psychological problems.

If you are struggling with anxiety, take a minute to read and heed these helpful tips:

1. Learn how to recognize your worry and what triggers it.

When you're anxious, you feel “knots in your stomach” and a general feeling of uneasiness, worry, and stress. Your breath can become shallow and fast, and you feel nauseated. You can't focus on your tasks and you become scared of making mistakes. Try to find out when and why this happens, and you can begin addressing it.

2. Do deep breathing exercises.

It works great for patients, and this technique can also do wonders for you. Those extra few puffs of oxygen-rich air expand your lungs and relax tense muscles. Breathe through your nose and feel your diaphragm expand. Hold it for a few seconds and then slowly breathe out through pursed lips, much like blowing out a candle, but slowly.

3. Address the cause of your anxiety.

If it is because you lack confidence as a newbie, do a mental practice run of the procedures before completing them. If your supervisor gets annoyed because you missed some steps, keep a level head and maintain your composure. Stick it out and do your best to become more resilient and learn lessons quickly.

4. Get good support.

Look for a coworker whom you trust to help give assistance and guidance whenever you feel unsure of yourself. Open up to the nurse who works closely with you. You may also turn to a family member for support. If you feel that your anxiety is significantly affecting your work and you risk endangering patients, inform your supervisor and seek professional help.

5. Exercise, eat healthy, and get a good night's rest.

Yes, going back to basics is often the way to go. Although anxiety can make you feel tired, lose your appetite, and keep you up at night, you have to do your best to overcome these challenges. Always keep your health in mind.

Anxiety is a part of a nursing assistant's job, but addressing it early on helps keep it from controlling you in the long run. Work on solutions rather than focusing on the stress around you. Soon, you’ll be able to slow down and appreciate the beauty in this rewarding career.

Posted: 1/14/2019 3:34:44 AM

Dare to be Bold: Giving Feedback to Your Managers

It’s common in the healthcare industry's work culture that managers give employee feedback regularly, like yearly performance reviews, where managers meet with employees and discuss their performance as staff. Informally, we might see supervisors pull a CNA aside to tell them that they should not be skipping important steps during a particular care procedure.

What if we turn things around and it is you, a CNA, who needs to speak with the higher-ups? For example, you see that many of your coworkers forego handwashing before most care procedures. Would you have enough courage to schedule a talk with the nurse manager about it? Would you knock on their office door without an appointment?

For many CNAs, just thinking about bumping into supervisors and directors in the hall is enough to pump up adrenaline and provoke momentary anxiety. So, speaking to them regarding work-related issues feels like an incredible feat, especially if the workplace supports a culture of fear.

Many nursing assistants feel hesitant to approach the management, even for the simplest reasons. They wonder, is it worth it? Is it my place? Isn’t that the nurses’ job? Will I take the heat for stirring up an issue? It may not be that important, what if I’m just wasting their time?

Before long, they give up on their good intentions and decide to leave things the way they are. If you relate to this dilemma at work, then check out these helpful tips on how to reach out to higher-ups:

1. If the concern compromises patient safety, never delay.

As a patient advocate, you need to speak up when you think your patient has become at risk of injury by your coworkers’ practices. Follow agency protocol for reporting.

2. If you cannot make yourself show up alone, get support.

Ask a trusted colleague to go with you. If you’re the type of person who gets tongue-tied when interacting with authority, ask a coworker to help you set an appointment. If the matter concerns patients, be wary of breaches of confidentiality and watch what you tell your colleague, even if it’s to discuss your concern.

3. Respect the hierarchy.

Try discussing your issue with the nurse you work with, especially if it is something that can be resolved within the working team or department. If the matter is much more serious, you can ask for their help to present the case to higher-ups.

4. If you think that discussing your concern will take up the manager’s time, ask for an appointment.

If you can’t keep it short and simple, ask first if you can have a few minutes of their time before going ahead and giving highly detailed feedback or a long overview.

5. Organize your thoughts before showing up.

There's no better way to annoy a busy manager than showing up and losing time while you struggle to explain your situation for most of your meeting. Prepare simple notes of what you want to say about your issue to help keep your remarks thoughtful and focused.

6. Try to think logically.

Avoid treating the manager like an emotional dumpster. Your concern may be about bullying or conflict, so naturally, there’ll be some raw emotions as you tell your story. As much as a manager wants to empathize with you, you’re better heard if you keep your emotions in check and focus on how the issue affects your work and patient safety. Presenting it logically helps get their attention.

Some situations can put CNAs in a position where they need to speak to management. Showing up and giving feedback to managers is brave in itself. If you need to be heard, find the confidence to speak up!

Posted: 1/7/2019 10:22:07 AM

Defining Success on Your Own Terms

Success is tricky, and not just because of the many challenges encountered before reaching the finish line, but also because you have to first choose how to define it.

If we consider how most people see success, we think of things like six-figure salaries, luxury cars and a big house in a posh neighborhood, being a member of an elite golf club, having a high position in a Fortune 500 company, and numerous certificates and diplomas hanging on the wall. To most people, these things paint the picture of success.

For CNAs, however, whose average annual salary is $27,520 in the third year on the job, these criteria for achievement seem too unrealistic, even if they give it a decade or more of back-breaking overtime and zero vacations.

If you use only luxurious material gains as your yardstick for measuring success, you'd be living a life of constant lack, and it will be hard to feel truly accomplished.

This is why it is vital you define success on your own terms, with your own goals, timeframe, and standards of success. When you own the definition, you move away from the rigid, one-size-fits-all meaning of success and live within your truth.

What’s more, after giving it some serious thought, your material goals will likely become simpler and you’ll focus more on what matters most—personal goals, building relationships, making an impact at work, balancing family life and career, and your health.

This way you'll have more control over what happens in your life and will be able to make sound decisions that will take you where you want to go.

So, if you are to set the stage for your success, what would it be? Here's a simple two-step process for you:

1. Think of what really matters in life, and keep it short and sweet.

Too cliché for you? Think of it this way: your happiness from your success depends on the simplicity of your criteria. If you’re having a hard time with this one, check out the tips below for inspiration:

Choose health over wealth (but let yourself be happy with an increase in pay or a promotion at work). Fitness goals should ring a bell. Choose a peaceful and loving home over stress and a drama-filled life.

Look into improving yourself and learning new things. If you choose wisely, the payback is real and very satisfying.

If you end up wanting more and more, without feeling any contentment, reflect on your choices and criteria. You may be investing your time and effort on fleeting things, or things that aren’t truly meaningful to you. Again, you dictate what will make you happy and successful. This step is crucial.

2. Work on what really matters, no matter what.

Keep the promises you made to yourself and never stop working on them. Every. Single. Day. Even when it gets harder, strive. When it gets overwhelming, take a needed break and pick back up where you left off, when you’re recharged and ready. If you fail for whatever reason, forgive yourself, learn your lessons, and start again.

Give 100% to your tasks each time and don’t sacrifice the end goal for an easy way out. Keep your focus, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

The finale is this: celebrate every small success, and when you finally hit a homerun, encourage others to define their own success the way you did and feel proud watching them take their first steps.

Posted: 12/31/2018 1:01:17 PM

What It's Like to Job Hop as a CNA

"Will job hopping hurt my resume and work history?" This is the question every employee who switches jobs a few times asks themselves.

Is there really stigma against changing your line of work or employer as a CNA?

Let’s look at the big picture. For employers, job hoppers can paint a picture of restlessness, discontent, and poor adaptability in the employee, meaning employers lose out when they have to spend more money unnecessarily to hire and train their replacement.

If you're a CNA and you put yourself in the employer's shoes, the stigma of being a job hopper makes sense. Hiring managers want people who will strive to be an asset to their organization amidst job challenges, rather than those who might leave their position at the slightest problem.

There are a few important factors to remember when thinking about what it’s like to job hop as a nursing assistant.


As a general rule, new graduates or those who are fresh from high school or university are given more leeway when it comes to job hopping. Because they are young and inexperienced, employers keep an open mind about them being more restless since they are in the stage of testing the waters to find their happy (work)place.

For example, CNA newbies may find hospital work too exhausting, so they leave just after a few months and try to work in a facility where routines are more predictable. Employers are more forgiving of this situation.


The turnover rate, or percentage of workers who leave an organization and are replaced by new employees, is high for CNAs. In a report, certified nursing assistant turnover is the highest among surveyed positions in the healthcare industry, at 27.7%!

What does the high turnover rate for CNAs mean? Job hopping is fairly common in CNAs, because many more choose to leave their jobs than other workers in healthcare. But, on the other hand, work for nursing assistants has one of the brightest outlooks among professions, at 11%, which is faster than average.

So, although the turnover rate is high, job opportunities are also vast. CNAs tend to look for the best fit without having to worry about finding another job. Employers have no choice but to hire job hoppers when there are a lot of vacancies urgently waiting to be filled.

The bottom line is, it is okay to switch jobs if you have valid reasons, like leveling up your career, continuing education, or changing your place of residence. If the reason is that of poor working conditions and the job hopper breaches an employment contract, employers tend to empathize with their fellow employers and hesitate to hire a serial job hopper. So, unless work issues are too overwhelming to ride out or work to improve, stick it out, find solutions, and finish an employment contract.

If you do plan on switching jobs, make sure to do it after giving it thorough consideration. While moving to a better opportunity is acceptable, especially for younger workers, limit it to few instances of a “bad fit,” so it won't hurt your chances of being hired.

Posted: 12/24/2018 3:17:44 PM

Tools and Equipment that Make Nurse Assisting Easier!

Nurse assisting is a tough but rewarding job. A big part of the help CNAs get while on the job is from the proper use of tools and equipment that make their tasks possible or more manageable. And, even when new technologies replace traditional ones, it is still good to be skilled in using both.

For CNAs, here are the common tools and equipment they use while on the job:

1. For taking vital signs: stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, thermometer, and a watch with a second hand
One of the primary responsibilities of a nursing assistant is to monitor vital signs. To accomplish this task, they must have a quality stethoscope to hear pulse beats when measuring blood pressure.

In some settings such as hospitals, they use digital equipment to measure blood pressure, but it is still advisable to have one with you at all times.

In some cases, such as when CNAs work in home health care, they may need a sphygmomanometer—a piece of equipment with an inflatable rubber cuff and a measuring device that shows blood pressure readings.

To check the pulse rate, a CNA also needs a watch with a second hand to ensure that they count the pulse for one full minute. If not, a smartphone with a timer will do.

Another tool for CNAs is the thermometer to measure body temperature. Usually, patients have traditional thermometers such as the axillary type kept at the bedside for their personal use. Most hospital settings have the newer digital types, used in the mouth or ear.

2. For wound dressing: Tape and scissors

In some states, CNAs are tasked to change the dressing of an uninfected wound. For this, the nursing assistant must have tape for securing bandages and scissors for cutting gauzes and tape. Scissors also come in handy when there’s a need to cut open packages.

3. Mobility aids

CNAs move patients in a variety of ways. They help them stand, sit, walk, and get up from the bed. They also transfer patients to different areas for treatments and procedures.

Gait belts are a must-have for moving or transferring patients. A gait belt is strapped securely around the patient's waist, and the CNA holds on to it instead of pulling on the patient’s clothes or lifting them under their arms. Without gait belts, it’s hard to control the patient’s movements as they walk or change position.

Wheelchairs and stretchers are used if the patient is too weak to go to treatment rooms and diagnostic departments.

4. Lifters

Lifting patients without the right equipment is unsafe for both the CNA and the patient. Never hesitate to use a lifter whenever necessary, or else you risk injuring your back or causing the patient to fall. This is a form of self-care on the job, while also ensuring patient safety.

5. Hand sanitizers

Handwashing is the most basic way to prevent the spread of infections, but when that's not possible because of some urgency or there's no sink nearby, the proper use of hand sanitizers will do the trick.

We know how work in healthcare can become extra fast-paced, and still, we must keep diseases at bay. Hand sanitizers, though convenient and easy to use, should not replace thorough handwashing.

6. Fanny packs or organizer belt bags

Many CNAs find that having a small bag to carry around with is a life-saver. Organizer bags keep small essentials in place, instead of having to rummage through your pocket every time, or worse, run to the nurse station or supply room to get a tool that doesn’t fit in a small pocket.

7. PPEs

Personal Protective Equipment are the indispensable tools of a CNA, such as gloves, masks, goggles, and gowns. PPEs prevent the CNA from getting infectious diseases from patients and spreading microorganisms that cause infections.

Nursing assistants are required to use these any time there is a possibility of touching blood or body fluids. CNAs must follow all instructions regarding PPE use.

8. Smartphones

Some smartphone functions that can be indispensable are the clock, the timer, unit converter apps, calculator, web browsers, and of course, the call and messaging functionalities. Although smartphones can also be a source of distraction, like using social media while at work, they prove very helpful if used in the right manner.

To be successful as a CNA, you have to know what equipment to use as well as when and where to use it to help you perform your duties better. Those who take advantage of these tools get the most out of their day.

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