Things to Know Before You Start Your Job as a CNA

Article Categories: Jobs & What is a CNA?

Finishing your training as a nursing assistant, getting certified as a CNA and finally landing a job in a facility may have been challenging and rewarding at the same time, but your journey to life-long learning and service is just beginning.

Being a newbie as a CNA can make those butterflies in your stomach flutter the whole day and there might be mixed feelings of excitement and nervousness. If you feel more nervous than excited, that is normal, too.

Some Certified Nursing Assistants find their first week in the job overwhelming. If you are new to the nursing assistant job or just finished on-boarding procedures, here are some helpful tips you might want to consider to help you finish your day in one piece.

The Golden Rules:

Practice with compassion, dignity, and respect. This is the most golden of all rules. These values are the only things that will humanize the workplace.

Treat your patients as you want to be treated, no matter how difficult they are, or how overworked you are. Do not lose this rule ever, and at the end of the day, you will reap the rewards of the job.

Prioritize patient safety above all. Protect them, and you would also have protected yourself (from getting a memo, or worse, a lawsuit) in the process.

Listen and observe more. Talk less. Your workplace is your ultimate training ground, and your co-workers who have been there for quite some time will be demonstrating the work for you. Be careful to pick-up only good practices and disregard bad habits.

Patients or residents are unique individuals. Their response to illnesses or aging varies. Avoid making generalizations and always be prepared for the unexpected.

Regarding your work:

Keep a small notebook and a pen in your pocket. This pair will be your best pals at work. Develop a serious relationship with them by jotting down important observations, such as vital signs. If you are a techie, keep notes of patient information on your cellphone, and make reminders with alarms.

Get to work a little early than you are expected and read the care plans. This will give you direction for the day, and lay out a mental list of to-do things.

Talk to the earlier shift Certified Nursing Assistants and get tips about patients such as which patient is confused, which patient requires the most care, and which patient requires constant supervision.

Make a fanny pack of things you might need. A few of the must-have items in that bag should be a permanent marker, tape, scissors, and gloves. You will add to these items as you go along.

Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes. You will be in them at least ten hours a day. You will find that these cushions under your feet can make or break your day.

Patient care:

Know your patients and their needs. This will help you cluster the care procedures and help you manage your time.

Develop a system of doing things. The earlier you develop a system of doing things, the better you get at your job.

ALWAYS report unusual or abnormal patient symptoms on time. Vital signs reporting should never be delayed. Following this tip can save a patient’s life.

As you walk past each room, make a mental list of supplies and equipment you will need to save you unnecessary trips to the supply room.

For patients who are uncooperative, do not ask “if” they want a procedure done. Rather ask the patient what time they would like it to be done. If you still do not get a fair response, you may assert that you will help the patient do the procedure at a certain time.

For patients with dementia, an activity that will always lighten the mood for everyone is reminiscing. Always keep their favorite photo album nearby.

For patients with pain, especially cancer patients, ask about the level of their pain. Be observant of non-verbal cues of pain and report to the nurse immediately if they are observed.

Use your time wisely. Sitting in a corner browsing your Facebook is a big No-No.Work isn’t the place for personal habits, unless you are on a break.

Working with the healthcare team:

Show respect at all times. It’s the ultimate tip to being respected in return.

If a co-worker shouts at you, do not let your world crumble. Be positively indifferent and do not take it personally. Take out the learning and discard the attitude. If in any case, the hostile behavior persists, seek out institutional policies on how to handle these situations.

Have a healthy working relationship with everyone, especially your nurse. Your nurse is your partner, and there are many more things you will learn from them if you keep the relationship afloat and professional.
If you need information on patient care, look it up or ask the nurse. Do not hesitate. Do not assume. Always be clear.

Document, document, document. Remember that if you did not write it, you did not perform it.


Ensure proper diet and exercise. Before you can care for others, you have to take care of yourself.

Don’t forget to practice proper body mechanics. All retired healthcare workers would say that all the lifting and turning of patients will someday take their toll.

Practice infection control. It is your first responsibility as a healthcare worker to protect yourself, your patients, and others from infections.

As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you will have good and bad days at work. You will encounter many challenges, but it is crucial to take them as learning opportunities. In time, all you have learned will be passed on to someone who made the same decision to take on this job, just like you.


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