My name is LaShayah (call me Shay), and I have been a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for six years. I honestly love what I do! Although some people may look at me as the poop cleaner or waitress, I see myself as an important part of the health care team. With pride I assist the nurse with wound care, collecting blood, and performing EKGs among other tasks. With pride, I lend an ear for concerns, fears, and uncertainties to my patients. With pride, I help with urinals, bedpans, baths, and changing linen. These are important things to be done and if I am on your team, believe that it will be done well and with a smile. Most people do not look at those “little things” as being significant, but imagine having to do my tasks on top of educating, medicating, and nursing your patient back to health.
I often see or hear nurses say they are “glad they are not the CNA” because we have to clean poop. Yet, there are so many other things that we do! So many times patients have expressed their dislike for the nurse or the care they are receiving to me. I then need to inform the nurse so hopefully the matter can be cleared up. Many times I have encouraged a patient to take medication, because they gave the nurse a hard time. (Just to be clear, I have never administered medication.) I always encourage my patients to ask questions because they do not understand certain things and are afraid to bother the nurse or doctor. While wound care is being done, I remind the patient to hang in there and remain strong. Do you know how good it feels to have someone say they are glad you worked the shift with them because they do not know what they would have done without you? The nurse cannot do everything, and I just love being the support that they desperately need some nights. Key word: support; not servant or personal runner.
These days, I work on a heart failure and thoracic unit at a hospital. This was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. Cardiology is one of my passions. It can definitely be hard seeing people so sick, but learning how to interpret EKGs, and seeing positive changes in patients after they come back from procedures such as cardiac catheterizations and pacemaker placements is amazing. I work the night shift, which in itself can be hard, but I really love it. When I come on shift at 19:00, I receive report and begin rounds. Vital signs are done every four hours on this unit at 20:00, 00:00, and 04:00. Every morning, heart failure patients are weighed and EKGs are done for those who had procedures done the day before. I often care for patients with LVADs (left ventricular assist devices) and chest tubes. With LVAD patients, blood pressures are not obtained with the automatic cuff of a blood pressure machine. A MAP must be obtained with a sphygmomanometer and Doppler. This is a skill that I am proud to have. Around 21:00, I check blood sugars. By 23:00, I prepare to recheck vital signs and say goodnight to my patients. Throughout the night, I answer call bells, pick up blood for transfusions, assist with turning patients to offload pressure, and encourage my team that we can make it through to 07:00. From 04:00 to end of shift, I am checking vital signs again, giving baths, performing EKGs, and checking weights.
Being the support that the nurses (and sometimes doctors) need is rewarding to me because some nights can be truly hard. Although not very often, we have rapid responses and code calls. Patients have incontinence accidents because they are not used to taking diuretics. Sometimes patients go into funky dysrhythmias in the middle of the night and need one or two EKGs per the nurse’s or doctor’s instruction. Often, a nurse is in one patient’s room for literally the whole night because he or she is in really bad shape. I enjoy being there for my nurses providing them with encouragement and support.
Currently, I am finishing prerequisites for nursing. I can now apply for a program next fall. I am so excited and look forward to learning the skills that RNs possess. I am grateful for the great nurses that have answered my questions, and encouraged me to continue into nursing. I am also grateful for the good and bad examples of nursing that I have seen because although everyone has a unique style of care, they have shown me what to do and what not to do. I am grateful to be a CNA because I see things from this point of view, and this experience will keep me humble when I become a registered nurse.
On a final note, please appreciate your CNAs! Do not over delegate and remember that it is okay to help us out sometimes, too! We are supposed to be a team and when everyone is on the same page for the patient, the shift moves along smoothly. Some of us may be rough around the edges, but remember that we have quite a bit to complete throughout our shift. Oftentimes, the CNA-to-patient ratio is greater than that of the nurse-to-patient ratio and each patient has different needs. The different color of our scrubs should not change the fact that the patient is the number one person in the room. Not the nurse or CNA. Do not look down upon CNAs because at any given moment, it could be you that has to help a patient get cleaned up if the CNA is tied up in another room or not there at all. No matter what your view is of the CNA, we are an important asset to the health care team and the patient. After all, who else is going to lift a butt cheek up for you to place a dressing?