How to Hit the Ground Running as a Certified Nursing Assistant

When you become a certified nursing assistant after finishing CNA training, finding a job can be easy or it can be difficult. But the first few weeks on the job can be incredibly stressful. You want to make sure that you don’t step on anyone’s toes, nor cause any new co-workers headaches by not knowing what to do. So how do you make sure that you can hit the ground running?

First, make sure that you have all the paperwork squared away before you even start. That includes reading up on the healthcare facility’s rules and regulations, as well as the requirements for benefits such as paid time off or attendance-based reviews. Knowing this ahead of time will limit the chances that your supervisor comes up to you after a shift and says, “Actually, this is a really bad sign.”

Similar to reading up on benefits is getting acquainted with the patients you’ll be working with on a daily basis. If you have a day or two of paperwork, see if you can get your hands on the care plans for your charges. You’ll want to be well-read on any potential needs that they have, as well as exceptions to training that you received during your classes.

Most facilities take advantage of a mentor-based relationship to help you get up to speed and this can truly be beneficial. Note what actions are making patients compliant and happy, especially for those with painful or difficult conditions. And never hesitate to ask questions afterwards. While it may seem silly, it’ll cut down on the number of problems down the road.

And, take stock of your own ability to remember things. You’ll be seeing a lot of new tactics, and new procedures, as you get acclimated to the system. If you don’t have a photographic memory, it may help to purchase a small notebook that you can hide away as you do your rounds. You can jot down things you liked about how fellow worked with patients, things that seemed confusing, or just questions to ask. Over the course of a few hours, you may forget something that happened early on in the shift.

Tips and Tricks for CNAs

Do you find that you’re always ending up with a stained uniform? That you need something, but can’t remember what? Can’t remember the names of the new residents that just came in? What you need is to incorporate a few tricks into your routine. Shortcuts that will save you time, save your sanity, and maybe even save that uniform.

If you do not already have one, buy a pocket sized notebook. These are very small and inexpensive. You can use the notebook to jot down names of co-workers, phone numbers, new residents, and break times. You can also list any information that happens during your shift that you feel may be important later.  Many people write down what time they clock in and out in order to check their hours against their paychecks if there is any discrepancy.  Keep one or two pens with the notebook.

Always keep a bottle of peri-wash in your pocket.  Not only will you be able to use it to help your residents feel fresh and clean between baths and after toileting, but did you know that peri-wash is a great pre-treatment for fabric stains?  In fact some stains can be removed completely with just peri-wash! Spray the stain, rub with a wet washcloth, and let air dry.  Peri-wash has saved many CNA uniforms from some nasty stains!

Keep a few extra bottles of liquid soap in your pocket.  Most that are kept by facilities are small, like hotel shampoo bottles.  If a resident has run out of a shampoo, body wash, or other toiletry – you have it on hand.

A few safety razors are good to have on hand in case one of your male residents needs a shave and their razors are either not charged or they’ve run out.

Personally, I preferred the 4 pocket uniform shirts, as I was able to carry quite a few things that may come in handy during my shift.  If you cannot find 4 pocket shirts, you can sew an extra, larger pocket over each pocket that is already on your shirt (smock). If you cannot sew, a friend or relative may be able to do this for you.

Many aides carry a snack with them during  their shift.  If you find that you are running out of energy during your shift, try carrying an energy or protein bar with you. Don’t eat this in front of your residents, but if you need a quick pick me up, step into the nurses station or breakroom and eat your bar. Your energy levels should rise.

Another thing that I always kept on hand was a tiny first aid kit.  A packet of antibiotic cream, a few bandages, and a dose of pain reliever – just in case.  This was for my own use.  Never give any medication to a resident.

Finally, remember to take a deep breath. While streamlining the process of being a CNA helps you and makes you look good to an employer, no one expects you to have all the answers. That just wouldn’t be fair. Just try to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes twice, and focus on providing care and keeping your patients safe.