Depending on what state you live in, you may know a CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) or LNA (Licensed Nurse Assistant) who has helped you or a loved one in a hospital, rehab, nursing home, or assisted living facility. You may feel like you have struck gold when meeting a nurse assistant with skills and compassion to care for your aging mother or father following surgery. If you are a nurse, doctor, or healthcare administrator then you know that your the work cannot be done successfully without that of these hardworking people.
For the most part, CNAs and LNAs are the ones who clean up patients when they have no bowel or bladder control. They help get patients into and out of beds and chairs, and on and off the toilet or bed pan. They reposition patients who are bedridden, make beds, (sometimes while patients are in them!), bathe, shower, and shave folks. They empty catheters, document care given, and use a variety of sophisticated machinery such as stand lifts for people who need a lot of help standing up. Many of the tasks require two assistants such as boosting a patient in bed or getting a patient out of bed with a Hoyer Lift. They assist nurses in monitoring intake and ouput, (how much fluid people take in and how much urine they put out), with wound care, and a variety of other clinical tasks. They answer call bells, help with exercises and activities and often interact with families. All of which is extremely important to patients and families!
Can you imagine a full time job where you would provide this kind of care all day or all night long? It is back breaking work! Patients come in all different sizes with different abilities, needs, wants and personalities. Patients may be grateful, indifferent, confused, afraid, or even combative. Treating all with compassion, gentleness and expertise is so much more than a facility’s tag line!
When I work as a Per Diem staff RN, I know that that nurse assistants with me make a huge difference in the flow of work, patient experience, and leadership challenges. They are women and men with a wide range of interests, strengths, backgrounds, and intellectual capacities.
Sometimes, I think that all healthcare personnel who are physically able should be required to take an LNA or CNA course so that they can recognize the value and difficulty of the work and fill in staffing gaps which are all too frequent!
Not me. I’ve done LNA/CNA work before and since hurting my knee with a patient falling last April, I offer less physical help. I do give them a lot of credit though and sometimes when they are not getting along well, I think that the underlying problem is that they are stretched too thin and seldom have time to have any fun together. I have incredible respect for the people who do this work and do it with skill and compassion!
What Does Treasuring Nurse Assistants Look Like?
For Patients, Family and Friends
Show appreciation with in in-person “thank you” or a card or letter! Make sure to include a copy to Human Resources or the Director of Nurses.
Offer to help in care. Sometimes making a trip down the hall to get towels or finish buttoning up a shirt is a BIG help!
Be patient and assertive. Often nurse assistants are caring for a LOT of patients at once. They’re job is to be helpful to all of them, even ones who don’t have advocates or can’t push the button for the call light.
For Healthcare Leaders
Show your appreciation! Look for strengths and offer feedback. Teach and train for things that could and should be better.
Advocate for enough staff to meet patient needs in a timely manner for patients and reasonable pace for caregivers.
Make team-building a priority. In a 24/7/365 operation, it can be challenging to ensure consistency among staff. Yet, this is crucial to teamwork and conflict management. Look for opportunities to have “Core” teams who make up the usual staffing on a floor and gift them with a pizza or movie tickets once in a while. (Consider “Team of the Month” as an alternative or addition to “Employee of the Month” rewards.)
Adequate staffing and team building efforts, when combined with leadership training for nurses, can make a huge difference in some of the blaming, gossiping, bickering, and disappearing acts that supervising nurses are all to familiar with!