Tools of The Trade: 5 Tools Every CNA Must Have

CNAs today work with the shiniest, biggest and latest technology to help them provide direct care to patients. However, modern technology cannot replace the simple tools that medical staff has been using for decades. Depending on your place of work and specialty, you’ll be able to perform most of your duties using standard tools that fit in your pockets.

Here’s a glance at the best nursing tools, which are a must for every nurse aide, whether you’re new or experienced.


A stethoscope is the most recognized symbol of medical care workers, especially for doctors and nurses, and sometimes for CNAs. You’ll use your stethoscope to check patients’ vital signs. During CNA training, your instructors will show you how to use the tool to determine blood pressure the manual way. On the job, there might be other tools to check vital signs. However, it’s always a plus to check your patients’ health with the simplest of tools.

Having the right stethoscope is just as critical as having one at all. Any equipment used in the medical field must be accurate and should not be faulty in any way. A small error in its performance can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment. A good stethoscope should have high quality acoustics to amplify sound and cancel outside noise. The tubing should be thick and sturdy to support the transmission of sound to the ears. Apart from accuracy, you need to consider comfort for both you and the patient. Choose a stethoscope that comes with different sizes of ear tips – three or more is best – and some feel comfortable when applied to the patient’s body.

Your budget may be limited as a nurse aide, so your aim should be to locate a stethoscope that offers the best features with a reasonable price tag. Durability is also essential. It’s always better to purchase once rather than several over a period of years. Stainless steel or titanium are durable materials that you want on the metallic components. Finally, you’ll want to have a stethoscope that is easy to clean – to reduce the possibility of transmitting infections. A stethoscope that can easily be assembled and disassembled are easiest to clean.


Scrubs are comfortable, but, what’s more important is that they’re durable. They’re available in a wide range of colors, textures, and style. You’ll want to consider ease of movement, lifting, bending, reaching. Scrubs with sizeable pockets to hold all your gear is always a plus. The fabric should be breathable and easy to clean. Today there are so many features available to meet the needs of healthcare workers. However, keep in mind that the facility where you work might have specific guidelines for the color and style of the scrubs you wear.

You might not think of shoes as being an important tool for the nurse aides, however, these are the most essential item that will make or break your day. You’ll most likely work long shifts (8 to 12 hours) and spend much of it standing and walking. The wrong shoes will result in back pain and foot pain if you work long shifts. It therefore is of utmost importance that you have a comfortable pair of shoes – preferably lightweight and breathable. Closed-toe shoes will protect your feet from falling equipment and sharp tools that are common to the health care environment. Other features you’ll want to look for include skid-resistant, liquid repellent, and cushion support for the soles of your feet. A pair of cotton socks will help to keep your feet dry throughout the day. A good pair of shoes is an upfront investment that will make a huge difference in your career as a nurse aide.

Personal protective equipment

Your role as a CNA revolves around caring for others, but you must also take care of yourself. Protective gear reduces the transmissions to communicable diseases between the patient and health care staff. Its use is essential to the maintenance of safe and hygienic practices. Disposable gloves, gowns, and masks create a physical barrier to reduce your exposure to infection and illness. Plastic masks that cover your entire face are an effective shield against bodily fluids and respiration infections. Hair covers and shoe covers may also be required depending on your role. Your employer may provide the required PPE, but it is always wise to have your own in case there is an unexpected shortage.

Surgical Scissors & Medical Tape

Keep your own pair of medical scissors on hand, you’ll use them almost every day. From dressing to bandages, scissors are a useful and needed tool. You’ll also use them if you need to cut clothing off the patient during an emergency. The ends of the scissors should blunt, pointed and curved upwards to protect tender skin. You can also keep a smaller scissors with sharp blades to quickly make cuts in an emergency.

Medical tape is equally as important. The basic tool is small enough to carry in your pocket throughout your shift. Medical tape is recommended to reduce post-surgical scarring. They can be used to hold a dressing or bandage to the wound.

Pen Light

A penlight is another must-have that slips easily and sits comfortably in the pocket of your scrubs. Some of them attached easily to your scrubs – so they’re always within reach. Use it to check your patient’s pupil dilation and determine his or her state of health – whether they’re conscious or not. This is another skill you’ll acquire in your nurse aide training or on the job under the direction of your nurse supervisor.

At night-time, you do have to disturb your resting patient. Use your penlight to navigate a darkened room to monitor your patient’s condition. A penlight is hand to check behind medical equipment, locate an item that fell under the patient’s bed, peek into closets, see if the power unexpectedly goes out.

Other Tools of the Trade

As a direct care provider, your hands are your most important tools. Without them you won’t be able to take the patient’s pulse, check for a fever, assist with personal hygiene or give a compassionate pat. Yes, your hands are essential, but they’re also agents of disease, which is why you must wash them to protect yourself and your patients. Always have hand-sanitizer on hand to keep your hands sanitized until you can get to the sink to use soap and water. Hand cream will keep your hands moisturized from the constant cleansing.

Alcohol wipes in a small portable package will support your efforts to keep your instruments keep. Use them to sanitize your stethoscope, scissors, penlight, blood pressure cuff, and other gear.

Your employer may or may not supply a gait belt. This handy device is essential for the safe transfer of patients from one place to another, such as from a bed to a chair. You’ll also use it to help patients while they walk – if they’re too weak to support their own weight. The belt essentially helps you to support patients, so they don’t fall. During training, you’ll learn how to use the gait belt the right way. You’ll use it daily to prevent back injury and protect your patients.

Your place of work will determine the other tools you’ll need. A watch with a second hand is essential for most CNAs. The facility will have an abundant supply of blood pressure cuffs, but you’re welcome to purchase one of your own. In your pockets, you can also carry a sharpie for labeling residents’ personal items, and small notebook for jotting down your observations or vital signs to pass on to the nurse, cheat sheets to refer to from time to time, and retractable pens.


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