5 Ways to be a Good CNA (from a Nurse’s Perspective)

I was a CNA for three years. I’ve worked with nurses the whole time, but I never had the time or opportunity to sit down with a nurse and find out how to be more useful to them. I’m sure most CNAs don’t. Now that I’m a nurse, I know what I value in a great CNA. Here are 5 ways to be a great CNA from a Nurse’s perspective!

1. Introduce yourself

I always appreciate when a CNA I haven’t worked with introduces themselves to me at the start of the shift. I like it even better when they ask me if there’s anything I’ll be needing from them that shift! Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t, but it saves me time trying to track everyone down.

It’s also a relief to have someone that’s ready to help. As a nurse, I don’t like constantly asking CNAs to do things. We start feeling like slave drivers. It’s refreshing to have someone volunteering their services!

2. Update the Nurse – A lot!

As a nurse, we like to know as much as we can about our patients. We need as much information as possible, because an informed nurse is an effective nurse.
That said, a great CNA can help by simply updating the nurse! If your patient had a bowel movement, let your nurse know in addition to documenting. If it’s happening frequently or the stool is loose, definitely let the nurse know. If vitals are a bit off, if the patient is complaining about something, if their behavior doesn’t seem quite right…these are all things a nurse likes and needs to know. Report anything that you find out of the ordinary. You’re the nurse’s eyes and ears.

Don’t think that you’d be bothering your nurse. They will definitely appreciate you keeping them well-informed about their patients!

3. See your patients as people, not tasks

I can always tell when I work with a CNA who actually cares about the patients. It’s all in the details. Everyone can reposition and change a patient every 2 hours. But great CNAs can also talk to patients, listen to complaints, notice behavior changes, and most importantly, let the nurse know!

They will take the time to work around the schedules of more difficult patients. I had a CNA who stationed herself outside a patient’s room during the night because they were a big fall risk and their bed alarm wouldn’t work. I really appreciated her dedication to helping keep the patient safe!

4. Be open to learning

Believe it or not, I enjoy CNAs who ask questions. It could be about anything. If you’re not exactly sure how to get a clean-catch urine specimen, just ask. Don’t know what a wound-vac is for? Why not ask? Wondering why the patient is on isolation? Ask again.

I know that when a CNA asks questions like these, they care about the patients and what is going on around them. They care about doing procedures correctly. And that, in my eyes, signifies that you are a good CNA.

Nurses should not mind answering your questions. A good nurse is an educator and a source of information for you. Use them!

5. Collaborate with the Nurse

I love when a CNA and I mesh our schedules together so our care is more efficient! For example, if you are going to change a heavy patient, or one that doesn’t get turned often, ask your nurse if they want to assess the patient’s skin. They’ll appreciate that.

You can even let your nurse know when you are starting your rounds. Ask them if there’s anything they need. It’s music to a nurse’s ears. For nurses, it’s really a breath of fresh air to work with someone who is enthusiastic and willing to help. Often, I like to follow my CNAs on their rounds and pass medications so we can cluster our care. As an added bonus, your nurse
might help you pull patients up or turn heavy ones if they are in the room with you!