Life Hacks From Seasoned CNAs

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Tips and Tricks

There are no shortcuts to a nursing assistant’s job success. Each day brings new challenges, and CNAs owe much of their knowledge to one of the best teachers out there: experience.

Nursing assistants who have been on the job for decades have developed their own tricks and workarounds to make their work a lot easier and efficient. So, we compiled a list for you!

Say hello to a better career with these life hacks from seasoned CNAs:

1. When taking a patient's vital signs, never tell them when you're counting their respiration.

Patients become conscious and tend to change their breathing when they know that they are being observed, so count their breaths while still pretending to take their pulse. Genius, isn't it?

2. Have a music streaming app on your phone.

Know your patient's favorite song and take note. When they get moody, you can play their song while you’re in their room cleaning up or doing a procedure.

This way, you make your patient feel good, in turn helping them be more cooperative. Your reward is less stress because you can finish in half the time.

3. Hold the hands of patients who are anxious about an upcoming procedure.

A nursing assistant's job is not all about accomplishing tasks. More than anything, the patient is at the center. When you see your patient is uncomfortable and looking anxious before a procedure, hold their hand and stay with them a while.

This gesture calms and reassures them. It may sound time-consuming, but it is literally the “caring” part of this job.

4. If your uniform is stained by blood, there’s a stain remover that works like magic.

Ordinary detergent or even bleach will not be able to remove blood stains on clothes completely. Instead, drop some hydrogen peroxide (the same you use for wound cleaning) on the stain, let it penetrate for a few minutes, and then rub a white bath soap on the spot. Scrub or wash the area with your hands and rinse.

If you cannot change clothes immediately, use a few drops of hydrogen peroxide and 70% isopropyl alcohol on the stained areas and dab the spot with a gauze to dry it. Voila! No more blood stains.

5. Pop a strong mint in your mouth before dealing with stinky messes.

The mint vapors will overwhelm your sense of smell, rather than the foul odor. As an alternative, spray peppermint on your mask or wipe some Vicks Vapor Rub under your nose.

6. For smelly rooms, bring some charcoal to work.

Spread the charcoals in an unused pan (such as a bedpan or an emesis basin) and put the pan in the corner of the room. You can also place used coffee grounds in a small dish to counteract the bad smell.

Or, bring a lemon and a small cheese grater with you to work and grate the lemon skin to release the wonderful citrus smell. Place the rind on a piece of gauze and enjoy the pleasant scent. Your nose and your colleagues won’t be able to thank you enough!

7. If you cannot remove a foul odor from your skin even after washing with soap and water, try toothpaste or baking soda to wash the odor away.

Toothpaste has germ-busting ingredients and baking soda removes bad smells. Both are safe to use on the skin, so no irritation to worry about!

8. Offer patients their meals or snacks about half an hour to one hour after they have taken their pain medications.

Patients who have pain will usually refuse to eat, especially if eating makes their discomfort worse. Pain meds are at their peak effect about 30 minutes to one hour later, so this is the best time to offer nutritious foods—when the patient is at their most comfortable. Because the patient is pain-free, they’ll more likely enjoy and finish their meals.

9. Ask for their favorite spice and use it when preparing bland or low-sodium meals.

There are many situations where a patient with a poor appetite is also prescribed a bland or low-salt diet. That's double trouble, which can hurt a patient's wellbeing, particularly their nutritional status. So, use their favorite spice when preparing meals, which will improve the flavor of bland foods.

10. If a fanny pack to carry around essentials is not your thing, keep a mini-organizer in your pocket.

The organizer can hold and neatly arrange commonly used items, such as a notebook, pen, tape, scissors, gloves, wipes, and whatnot. With this hack, you'll know where to get what you need instead of always emptying or digging deep into your pockets.

11. For every sticky situation that arises, breathe, and say what you mean nicely.

Those who know how to communicate well are the ones who win in the workplace. Whether speaking with coworkers, managers, patients, or their family, do so with respect. Also, make use of a good sense of humor, so that you'll end up a winner and not just a survivor.

12. Practice proper body mechanics until you do them on autopilot.

Love your back from day one of work. Move patients and things the right way, all the time, until they become your only method for moving heavy stuff.

These life hacks have been proven to make the work of seasoned CNAs a lot less stressful. These are just a few to begin with. As you go along, you'll come up with time-saving, stress-busting techniques of your own. Don't forget to share your hacks if they're not on this list!


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