Posted: 3/18/2019 4:23:29 PM

11 Hacks for CNAs Whose Patient Has a Poor Appetite

Loss of appetite is a common problem for patients who are sick or in pain, especially those battling long-term or terminal disease. It is also a side effect of many medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy. Patients report a strange metallic taste in the mouth with certain diseases and medications. Sometimes, food and the act of eating itself is unappealing for those with psychological or mental illness such as major depression.

Whatever the reason, the consequence of a poor appetite is that the patient doesn’t eat properly and, therefore, their diet lacks nutrients the body badly needs for healing and restoration. This is a big challenge for CNAs tasked with making sure their patient stays well nourished.

The following 11 S's are a helpful guide for nursing assistants who want to improve their patient's appetite:

1. Sight

When you can’t tickle the taste buds to make your patient eat, appealing food presentation can do the trick.

Think of your favorite restaurant and how they present food. Not only does the food taste good, but the way they arrange the table and your food on the plate is enough to set the mood for enjoyment.

This is why posh restaurants go to such great lengths to wow patrons with their plating skills. There is no need to be that elaborate, but do put some effort into perking up your patient's mood for meals.

2. Smell

Part of tasting is smelling and that's a fact. Ask anyone who lost their sense of smell and they'll tell you that food tastes bland.

So, for this tip, you need to do two things: avoid giving foods with strong unappealing odors and serve more foods that smell wonderful.

Take garlicky recipes out of your list as well as brussel sprouts, aged cheese, and fermented foods. Bring out freshly baked bread and pastries, grilled meat, and desserts with cinnamon or vanilla.

3. Seasoning

If you have to level up your appetite-stimulating game a bit, bank on a good set of herbs and spices to help you out. Seasonings can enhance the taste of food and mask bitter tastes.

4. Special

Make mealtimes special. Encourage socialization by organizing a group meal, because eating with others also makes meals enjoyable.

5. Soft or easy to eat

Patients with a poor appetite usually do not have the motivation for complicated eating tasks, for example, cracking crab legs and picking at the meat, so prepare something easier to eat. Slice meat and fruits into bite-sized portions and serve softer foods.

6. Smoothies

Fruit and vegetable smoothies are tasty and refreshing, especially if you know the right combinations. Try adding milk and oats for a more nutrient-rich drink.

Some yummy combinations to try are strawberry-banana, mango-banana, and cucumber-lemon and honey. You may sneak in a few veggies of your choice, such as spinach or cauliflower, without altering the taste.

7. Seeds

Seeds like flaxseeds, sesame, hemp, pumpkin, and chia seeds are bursting with important nutrients that will benefit the patient, and they give an added texture and zest. You may also add seeds to fruit and vegetable smoothies and shakes.

8. Set time for exercise.

Exercise makes people hungry since their body spent energy that needs to be replenished through eating. Schedule exercise about an hour before meals to help stimulate their appetite.

9. Support

Perhaps one of the most important tips is to empathize with your patients. It is not easy to lose one of the most natural sources of joy, eating a good meal, so be extra supportive when they’re having a hard time.

Ask about their favorite foods and what they like or dislike about their food. Remember their preferences during meal preparation. Never force them to eat, but always be encouraging.

10. Schedule

Offer meals at particular times of the day. Do not rely on their appetite before you prepare food, or else they will barely eat. Tell them the specific times food will be served and remind them that meals are part of their treatment plan.

11. Small and frequent

Rather than serving three fully-loaded meals each day, try cutting down serving sizes so that they eat smaller portions five or six times a day. Eating smaller meals more frequently will also help with nausea, which usually accompanies poor appetite.

We know that good nutrition is an important part of the care plan, and poor appetite is a stumbling block to reaching that goal. It’s wonderful when CNAs become creative and put more effort into meal preparation to help their patients eat.

Posted: 3/11/2019 2:46:55 PM

What’s on a CNA’s Wish List?

CNAs are a lot of things to a patient and their family. They are primarily a personal caregiver, attending to the patient’s activities of daily living. They serve also as their companion, confidante, and even their hairdresser! To nurses, they are the indispensable helpers who make a nurse’s job a lot easier.

While CNAs do a lot for everybody, they often do not feel confident enough to speak up about what they need to be effective in their jobs. To paint a clearer picture of what CNAs long for, we've created a common wish list for you:

1. An ideal (or humane) CNA-patient ratio

Does everyone agree that this wish tops the list? Many of you have probably told yourselves, "If only I had fewer patients, I could care for each of them better." While there’s evidence that caring for more patients than ideal puts patients at risk, there is not much happening to solve the problem.

Many factors affect the assignment of patient load, like the setting—more staff are needed in a hospital's post-op recovery unit than in a nursing home, for example, because the needs of a patient after surgery are much more complex than those in nursing homes.

Of course, CNAs want a lighter load so that they'll have enough time for meaningful interactions with their patients and don’t have to put off going to the bathroom themselves, because six more patients still need a change of incontinence pads. So, this wish deserves the number one spot!

2. The availability of the right equipment when you need it

You need to lift a 300-lb patient and another CNA is willing to help. But, even with the two of you using a turning sheet, the patient's weight is too much to handle without the use of a lifter.

You might have one that is working in your unit, which is great! But there are times that some staff seem to feel more entitled to using equipment and you are left to fend for yourself. When that happens, CNAs wish for the right equipment available, in working condition, when they need it.

3. Colleagues and management that truly care and listen

Any work goal is a lot easier to achieve, and challenge more readily overcome, when your colleagues work with you instead of against you. Supportive coworkers are truly motivation to put on your scrubs every day, but bullies exist even in healthcare.

Because CNAs are at the bottom of the healthcare food chain, they would love to have a voice loud enough to be heard and recognized without being “eaten” by the higher-ups.

4. Higher pay and better benefits

A CNA’s job is physically demanding as well as emotionally draining at times. Their tasks expose them to different injuries and hazards at work, such as torn muscles, damaged spines, or infectious diseases. But even with their backbreaking work, their take-home pay does not seem to do their efforts justice. While there are state and federal regulations that dictate their salary, CNAs still wish for better compensation.

5. A cure for diseases

This one’s a no brainer. Who wouldn't be happy when experts finally announce they've found a cure for cancer, AIDS, diabetes, or Alzheimer's? CNAs want no less than that, and what a dream come true to someday get this news!

Nursing assistants are hard workers with big hearts. Even when the going gets tough, they stay and do what they do best, providing care to the elderly, those with disabilities, and unwell patients. Their wishes may be too distant to be a reality, but that doesn’t stop CNAs from giving their all. Do you have anything to add to this list?

Posted: 3/5/2019 5:43:54 PM

CNA FAQs, Facts, and Statistics

Working as a nursing assistant sometimes makes you think about how you fare against other CNAs in the country. That’s normal! Of course, you’d want to know the average salary, job outlook, or overall job satisfaction on the job.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from (or relating to) nursing assistants—answered by facts and statistics:

1. How many CNAs are there in the US?

In 2016, there were 1,564,300 nursing assistants and orderlies in the US.

2. What is the job outlook for CNAs?

A job outlook is a forecast of the growth or decline of employment rates. For CNAs, it is 11%, higher than average. This means that there will be a lot of vacancies for job hunters, even in the future. This forecast is good until 2026.

The very positive job outlook is largely influenced by the projected number of Americans needing long term care, from 13 million in 2000 to 27 million in 2050.

3. What is a CNA’s average pay?

In 2017, CNAs earned an average of $27,510 per year, or $13.23 per hour. The highest paying state is Alaska, with a range of $13.22-23.46 and an hourly average of $17.81. New York is next, paying CNAs $11.39-22.19, with an average of $16.65. Of all the cities in the US, San Francisco pays the highest salary—an average of $45,410 annually.

4. What is the average age of CNAs?

The average age of CNAs is 39 years old. Thirty-four percent of CNAs are aged 45 years old and older.

5. Are there more female nurse assistants than males?

The answer is probably obvious! Yes, there are more female CNAs than males. Among all healthcare workers, direct care workers such as nursing assistants are mostly female. In fact, over 90% of these workers are women.

6. Where do CNAs most commonly work?

In a study conducted by the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing), 24% of nursing assistants who participated in their survey worked in an extended care facility and 15.5% in a hospital, particularly in the medical-surgical unit.

In long-term settings, 42.5% worked in a skilled care facility. In 2014, 612,120 nursing assistants provided care in nursing homes.

7. Which cases or patient health conditions do CNAs usually handle?

According to the NCSBN in 2010, the majority of CNAs (43.7%) take care of patients with acute conditions or those that need immediate medical attention. They also assist patients with stable chronic or long-term conditions (42.6%) and those at the end of life (42.5%).

8. How many CNAs are pursuing a nursing education?

We don’t have the exact number, but only 7.7% of CNAs are taking up formal nursing studies, with the majority of those enrolled in either an LPN course or RN associate program. Only 1.4% are taking up RN baccalaureate studies.

9. What are some of the most common problems CNAs encounter at work?

Almost one-third of nursing assistants say that dealing with difficult coworkers and work overload is what makes their work most difficult and least satisfying. They also report problems with leaders and management as well as poor pay and benefits.

10. What factor unrelated to work affects a CNA’s work most significantly?

Thirty-nine percent of CNAs report problems related to childcare or care of a sick family member and that these situations affect their job the most.

11. How well are nursing assistants able to manage their time and complete their tasks?

Only 57% of CNAs report having enough time to help patients with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, and dressing. Also, 56% say they don't have enough time to do other tasks unrelated to personal care.

12. How many CNAs get work-related injuries?

More than 14% of nursing assistants are injured while working, and these injuries are severe enough that they cannot return to work for at least a day.

Now that you have the numbers, what do you think about these figures? Do they sound familiar?

Here's one final (but important!) takeaway: Most nursing assistants become direct care workers because of their burning desire to help others, which is unique compared to other workers of a similar wage range.

A salute to all our CNAs!

Posted: 2/25/2019 1:31:04 PM

Finding the Right Reasons to Stay in Your Job as a CNA

According to the 2018 National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, Certified Nursing Assistants made history (again) by having the highest turnover rate among healthcare workers, at 27%. This is 3.1% higher than in 2016. What does this data mean?

To be clear on the topic, let’s first define what turnover is. Employee turnover is the rate at which staff leave a company (in this case, hospitals and nursing homes) and are replaced by new hires. CNAs hold the number one spot for leaving their jobs most frequently, significantly more than patient care techs and registered nurses, which rank 2nd and 3rd.

You may be able to think of some heart-breaking reasons to quit your job as a nursing assistant, but today, let's try looking at the bright side of this career and find the right reasons to stay:

1. You provide much-needed care to people who are sick, disabled, and weak.

Your choice to stay can be the reason patients receive personal care the way they should. Imagine if all nursing assistants decided to quit! Patient injury due to falls would likely increase, because of the lack of bedside assistance. How many patients would get their baths and other hygiene measures? This scenario paints a gloomy picture for the healthcare industry, with patients severely lacking help in their activities of daily living.

2. Registered nurses need the CNA's support.

The nurse-CNA partnership is necessary for patients to receive adequate care. Without CNAs, RNs take on all the workload of bedside care—highly challenging (if not impossible), given their existing scope of work. Therefore, a CNA's role is critical in achieving all the health goals of a patient.

3. Nurse assisting is a rewarding job.

Although a CNA's pay is nothing fancy, you get a lot out of your experience helping people with their health. You can use your knowledge to care for yourself and your family. If you're a nursing assistant, you also tend to value health, life, and relationships, because you’ve seen it all and been there, done that.

4. A CNA’s job outlook is great, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You’ll never be out of a job, because there are vacancies everywhere. There’s no reason to change your career when you can tweak the details of your work. If the routine in a nursing home bores you, opt for more action by transferring to a hospital. Or, if you prefer to work at night, there’ll be options in that area, too. If you are a homebody, try home healthcare, where you help patients in the comfort of their own homes.

5. This job is a “calling.”

To start with, CNAs have the heart and passion for patient care, or else they would’ve already called it quits and run out the door during training. If you have been in this job for a little while, you have it in you to stay and succeed.

As you interact with patients and their families, you feel you couldn’t just leave them to fend for themselves. You know deep down that you are part of something with great purpose and significance.

6. You build strong relationships and bond with patients and colleagues.

True, there may be patients or coworkers who are difficult to handle. But, there are also those touching moments with your favorite people. You see small and big successes every day, and you feel happy and fulfilled when patients open up to you or make you feel special. There are colleagues and managers who see the good in you, too.

To stay at or leave your job as a nursing assistant is a personal choice, but consider this: no work is without its challenges—there may be many reasons to quit, but you likely have more reasons to stay and make a difference in people’s lives. If you are at this crossroads right now, we hope you'll make the right choice and wish you all the best!

Posted: 2/18/2019 2:53:04 PM

CNAs Need to Care for Their Health, Too

A CNA's job is basically to assist patients in their activities of daily living, maintain their immediate environment, and tend to patient needs under the direction and supervision of the nurse. While the end goal is to help patients restore or maintain their health, to do this CNAs must first (and above all) take care of themselves.

A nursing assistant must be healthy and physically fit in order to do all the physical stuff, such as lifting and turning patients, and spending their shifts running around. A CNA must also be emotionally and mentally healthy so they can make sound decisions and avoid errors and angry outbursts. Most importantly, nursing assistants need a strong immune system to prevent getting infections and spreading them to others, especially patients.

Here are nine great tips to help ensure your health comes first:

1. Eat right.

"You are what you eat," or so they say. No one can deny that good food is the path to great health, so pump up your greens. Make your plate as colorful as possible with natural, less-processed foods, such as fruits and veggies.

Choose healthy sources of carbohydrates like old-fashioned oatmeal and brown rice. Pick legumes and fish for protein. And of course, eating at the right time is also key, because skipping meals and overeating later does more harm than good.

2. Stay hydrated.

Like oil helps engines run smoothly, the body needs water to sustain all its processes. So, keep your water intake in check. If you have trouble monitoring how much water you’re drinking each day, fill up two 1-liter containers as a guide. Bring one to work and drink the other at home. Your goal is to finish both bottles in 24 hours.

3. Exercise regularly.

Some of you will cringe at this and think, Didn't we have enough physical exertion today? And you may be right! But, we are not talking about an hourlong workout in the gym every day. If you feel beat after work, it’s better to perform stretching exercises, which can relieve backaches and refresh tired legs and feet.

4. Get enough rest.

Quality sleep is the way to go to stay healthy. Think of a good night’s rest as a reset button, when healing and restoration happens. To ensure that you are getting enough rest, sleep seven to eight hours per day.

Stay away from caffeine, vigorous exercise, and stimulating activities, such as social media and mobile games, before bedtime. Ditch your phone for the evening and instead play some relaxing music. Take a bath and try drinking warm milk to help you relax and invite sleep.

5. Break your bad habits.

Quit smoking and avoid alcohol. Refrain from eating high-fat fast foods and sugary snacks, and maintain a healthy weight.

6. Feed your mind and soul.

Being healthy is much more than just the physical aspects. You'd probably prefer feeling physically exhausted over emotionally drained and without peace of mind. A tired body is healed with adequate rest, but feeling burned out and stressed over a long period of time can be more difficult to address, with more drastic consequences.

So, perform meditation or read inspiring stories. Actively seek support and build good working relationships at work. Find a circle of friends who can uplift you. Nurture your spiritual health. Spend time with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel good about yourself.

7. Undergo physical checkups and screenings.

Get your annual physical checkup, including breast or testicular examinations. Ensure that you receive all recommended vaccines, to protect you from acquiring infectious diseases.

8. Be safe and wear PPEs.

Safety is a priority and must be considered above everything else, for there is no “health” to talk about if an injury happens. Follow all safety protocols and use personal protective equipment (PPEs) when necessary.

9. Have a positive attitude and a bright outlook on life.

The mind is a powerful tool, and the body finds it hard to cope when the mind feels defeated. This kind of health means looking for the good in people and situations. It also means accepting what cannot be undone or changed and hoping that better things are on the way.

Before you can take care of others as a champion CNA, you need to first love and take care of yourself. This is not being selfish—it is prioritizing all aspects of your health so you can stay confident perform your job well.

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