Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) play a crucial role in patient care. They attend to the fundamental needs of patients or residents, freeing the nursing staff for those duties that require advanced education and skill. Like other healthcare professionals, CNAs can pursue several career paths and work in areas beyond the traditional hospital or long-term care facility. So where do CNAs work? They can pretty much work in any facility that provides health care. They can also work in scientific research depending on their experience and education. Always keep in mind that CNAs must work under the supervision of a licensed practical nurse or registered nurse since they cannot practice on their own. The following highlights some of the places CNAs work and may include a few surprises.
This is one of the obvious places where CNAs work. In the fast-paced environment of the hospital, CNAs assist patients with personal care and monitor patients’ response to medication and treatments to report adverse reactions to doctors and nurses. Hospital administrators prefer CNAs with advanced experience as the position requires versatility and confidence.
A nursing home is another common place where CNAs work. However, most people considering this career path are hesitant about working with patients who need long-term care. Providing direct care services requires patience and compassion, and if you’re not ready for the commitment and role as a long-term care provider, there are many other avenues to explore as a CNA. In nursing homes, you’ll assist chronically ill patients with personal care and attend to almost all their needs. Many of them eventually succumb to their illnesses. Therefore, the job can be as emotionally challenging as it is physically. But the rewards are worth it when you know you’re fulfilling a vital role, which goes beyond healthcare, in the lives of the patients you serve.
Home Health Care
CNAs often work in patients’ homes, assisting patients with mobility and performing personal care tasks that they cannot do for themselves. The job requires travel to the patient’s residence where you will not only assist patients with bathing, dressing, toileting, and moving from one place to another, but also preparing simple meals and feeding your patient. The position calls for experience as you will have to perform your tasks with minimal supervision and assistance from other CNAs. Many CNAs prefer home health care as they work with one patient at any given time, so the pace is much slower than working in a hospital or nursing home.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities (ALF) house patients who are mostly independent and require minimal assistance with personal care. The clinical experience in many nursing assistant programs takes place in an ALF. If you perform well during the clinical experience, your first job may be at the same facility where you trained. Residents are mostly cheerful and in need of emotional support more than physical assistance. Working in such a facility may be rewarding if you like forming lasting relationships with seniors.
Adult Day Care
The adult day care is a place where physically or mentally challenged residents spend their days and return to their homes when a family member is around to care for them – usually in the evenings. The residents do not reside in a facility, and many of them are not long-term residents. Administrators offer excellent incentives to reduce turnover as they prefer caregivers who are familiar with the residents’ and the facility’s routine.
CNAs take patients’ vital signs and provide basic care to patients who visit the clinic. Their responsibilities depend on the type of clinic, but generally, administrators may ask CNAs to assist with phlebotomy and EKG, which calls for additional certification. In this setting, you’ll reap the financial rewards of your additional certification, and may have opportunities to advance your career with additional learning.
Nursing assistants don’t need certification to work in a physician’s office – in some states. Doctors hire signs to take patients’ vital signs and for their observational skills, which can be valuable in such a setting. With certification in EKG and phlebotomy, a nursing assistant will be a valuable asset to any physician. The job pays well, better than nursing homes even, and is perfect for anyone who prefers to work standard daytime hours.
Experienced CNAs may qualify for positions requiring the provision of school health services. In this setting, you’ll work with students of varying ages, administering first aid when needed and communicating vital information to parents in case of an emergency. You work may also involve assisting impaired students with personal care and other activities. In this capacity, CNAs are referred to as paraprofessionals.
Prisoners are not excluded from the need for healthcare services. They need healthcare – from acute care to long-term care- and CNAs will have to work with nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals to attend to their needs. The position requires experience, knowledge, and a willingness to work with persons with different backgrounds and temperaments.
Patients go to outpatient centers to receive same-day surgical procedures where they’re discharged at the end of the day. These centers offer standard hours to individuals who cannot work the shift and nighttime hours available at other facilities. At an outpatient center, you’ll work closely with nurses to help patients prepare for surgery and recover afterward. You must have good observational skills to detect possibly adverse reactions and report to a registered nurse or physician.
Mental Health Facilities
CNAs with special certification in dementia, substance abuse, and crisis management are valuable to administrators of psychiatric facilities. The mentally ill residents need round the clock care, so you must be willing to work shifts. The job involves working closely with unpredictable residents, so you must be emotionally mature, calm, patient, and a team player.
Terminally ill patients, who are expected to die within 6 months or less, require hospice care. They may receive care in their homes, nursing homes, special centers, and assisted living facilities. Hospice care requires the cooperation of a team of professionals working together for the patient’s benefit. You must be emotionally stable to deal with death and dying and have excellent communication techniques and compassion for the patients you serve.
These are just a few places where CNAs work. Some areas will require advanced training and certification. However, as a CNA, you should be adequately trained to perform your tasks in most medical settings and deal with all kinds of patients. The pay rate and rewards, hours, and responsibilities all depend on the facility, your experience, and education.