As a nurse aide, how would you rate your level of professionalism? If that question caught you off guard, you may have forgotten or possibly never knew that a certified nurse assistant is a health professional. You may be at the bottom of the rung (some people say that about us!), but you are still very much a health care professional.

Now that you know that, how would you rate your professionalism? Think on that for a moment. Do you show up to work in a clean uniform, your hair pulled back tightly, no makeup, no perfume, and greet everyone politely? Or do you throw on whatever uniform looks the cleanest, let your hair hang, and load on the perfume?

Professionalism as a CNA is first conveyed by your appearance. If you do not care how you look, then your employer and co-workers will think you do not care about your job. A person that cannot be bothered to look presentable for work cannot be bothered to perform their job well. If that sounds silly, try out this: for one week wear the best uniforms you have, pull your hair away from your face in a tight and well combed ponytail, and use minimal makeup. You will look better all during your shift, your co-workers will notice how professional you look, and you may even notice that your work is ‘tighter’.

When you look good, you feel good. When you feel good, you work better. When you look like a professional, you’ll feel like one, too!

When speaking to your residents, be sure to always use their preferred name. If they ask you to call them by their first name, do so. Never use pet names like honey or sweetie. This is disrespectful – most residents are old enough to be your grandparents or great-grandparents. They have lived long lives, try to give them respect in your speech. This is how a professional behaves.

When you speak to co-workers, do you talk about other staff behind their backs? This is not how a professional acts. While it might be the way many staff members behave, you do not need to be like everyone else. Spreading gossip is a great way to find yourself at the juicy end of a lie one day.

When speaking to family, do you use a respectful tone? Can they tell that you know what you are doing and what you are talking about? CNAs that act in a professional manner always treat family members of residents with respect. They are not loud and rude when family members are visiting, nor do they complain to family members about the behavior of the resident. That is better left to the aides who do not care about their job. Everyday work hard to do the best job you can and to present yourself as the professional that you are.

Customer Service As A CNA

Customer service is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think ‘nurse assistant’. It should be one of the first, though! As a CNA your duties are providing great care to those that rely on you. The care that you provide should be considered a service and your residents or patient are paying customers.

We tend to forget that the people we are caring for really are paying for our services. We are supplying a service they need and if you think about it, their charges at the end of the day merit far better treatment than many receive. Would you willingly pay up to $300 a day for someone to call you “Sweetie”? What about for someone to let you sit with a full bladder for hours? Worse…forget you are in the toilet or in bed on a bedpan?

Those are examples of horrible customer service. Remember how angry or frustrated we become when our concerns are blown off by customer service representatives in any other field? We become irritated and ask to speak to their supervisor. If you fail to give your customers in healthcare good customer service, you can bet that your supervisor will eventually be called!

What are good examples of giving good customer service as a CNA? Well, do you remember your training? When you approach a resident in order to give them any type of care, you need to introduce yourself and tell the resident what you are about to do. You are also responsible for keeping your hands clean in order to protect your residents and yourself. You are responsible for making sure the residents you are caring for are clean, dressed, and presentable. These are examples of good customer service.

Great customer service as a CNA is going beyond your basic duties. Are you required to talk to a resident as a friend while you perform care? No. Is it a nice thing to do, though. You do not need to spend a few extra minutes of your day after your shift talking to family members or saying goodbye to the residents on your hall, but again, it is a nice thing to do.

In essence, providing good customer service to your residents is as easy as performing your job duties as trained and treating others as you would like to be treated.

Maintaining Boundaries

There is a line that you need to draw between your patients and you. As a paid caregiver you enjoy helping people, being there for them, and doing what you can. However, as a paid caregiver you have been hired to take care of the patient, not the family. Unfortunately, these lines can at times become blurred. When you become more than a paid caregiver there are some steps you should take to correct it and let family members know you are not there to take care of them too.

You have to be the one that sets the rules for your duties as a paid caregiver in someone’s home or in a nursing facility. It is best to start out with very clear lines of what your job entails and what you are willing to do, but if this becomes blurred consider the following. There will be times the family member needs to speak with someone about their feelings, about how tough things are for them because of the decline in their loved one.

You have to decide if you are willing to be that listener. If not, you need to refer them to support groups. A suggestion for how to approach the subject would be: “I understand you need to discuss your family member. I am willing to discuss their care. However, it would be beneficial for you to seek a support group to help you deal with your situation, and to have others to talk with that have the same fears, feelings, and issues.”

By telling the person you are there for their family and that you want to have an open discussion as to their care, you are showing that you are sympathetic. You are also giving them a place they can turn to rather than putting extra time or pressure on you.

It is easier to make a meal for the entire family rather than just one person, especially if the person you are caring for can eat the same diet. However, you should not start off this way. By making a meal for everyone family members will come to expect it, even if later on their elderly or injured family member needs a diet change. Laundry is the same. You may not have a full load, but you should never fill it with other family members’ belongings as this can give them a chance to take advantage of you.

Part of the Family

We’ve discussed before that certified nurse aides are sometimes the only family that a resident (or many residents) in a facility have.  Their own family may have passed on long ago or perhaps their family is spread across the country (or the planet!) and unable to visit.  Either situation means that the only family that a resident in this situation has is the staff of the facility in which they live.

What many aides fail to remember is that while the facility, we work at, is our place of employment it is home for our residents.  When we leave work, we’re going into our homes – but when we go to work we are stepping into the homes of others.  Each room is more than a bed to the residents, it is their personal space, all they have after a lifetime of independent living.

With that in mind, we should conduct ourselves as guests in their home.  Even if we are well loved by a resident, we should always knock to let them know we are coming in to help.  If a resident is mostly independent, we need to remember that we are not to barge into their rooms as if we own the place.  We are guests, caretakers, and we are only in their homes because we are there to serve them.

Too many aides look as residents as a problem, when in fact this mindset is the problem.  We find that we are rushed by short staffing or other reasons which cuts down on the time we take to actually speak to our residents. This is sad, as many residents have wonderful personalities and can enrich our own lives.

Instead of rushing through care, take the time to talk to your resident as you wash them.  Make them feel comfortable and cared for.  It takes no extra time to talk to a resident when we are providing care – giving the extra care for their need of human contact will only increase your enjoyment of your job and their enjoyment of having you in their lives.

A mistake that some aides make is to treat their residents like children.  It has happened so many times that in the rules of care and during our training we learn to not refer to our residents as honey, sweetie, or other child-like familiar names.  This is because we are not providing care for toddlers – even the resident suffering from dementia and that behaves like a child has lived a long life…as an adult.  Our job is to preserve these people’s dignity. Treating the people we work for with respect will not only make us more of a part of their ‘family’, it will enrich our work life.

Texting on the Job

Texting is one way that people keep in touch without needing to stop and take phone calls all day. While sending text messages is a quick and easy way to stay in touch, it is a time waster. Some people are unable to send just one text message, they spend all day talking to multiple people about whatever strikes their fancy. This wastes time – not just your time as an employee, but your employer’s hours. Your employer is paying you to be on duty, not on the phone.

Residents also suffer. When a nurse aide is busy answering texts while caring for residents she is taking time away from that resident. These people, under an aide’s care, may not receive much human contact during the day. Texting during the small amount of time they have with people is not only unprofessional, it is rude. As aides we are taught to respect our residents, not alienate them.

Sharing pictures or information goes against all HIPPA laws that we learned during training. HIPPA ensures that residents (and patients) receive safety and respect concerning their personal information. If an aide is caught or reported breaking such HIPPA laws he or she can face fines, loss of their certificate, and possibly jail time.

So what can you do to ensure you aren’t texting too much or sharing information that you shouldn’t? Simple- don’t text on the job. Reserve your texting for emergencies or for when you are on break. Texting lowers productivity and can cause you to make a mistake during care.

There’s a reason why employers ban texting. When you are texting or using social applications on the job, your productivity is lowered. Why should an employer pay you for hours you are not working? It isn’t fair to the employer or to your co-workers who are picking up your slack.

A time and place for texting or social networking can be almost any place – except at work. Too many people are connected 24/7, they forget that at one time we performed our job duties without being ‘plugged in’. Do you really need to know what your friends are doing during your work hours?

Do they need to know every single thing going on at your job? The short answer is NO. You run the risk of revealing patient privacy or  slipping up on the job. By reserving texting for breaks or after work, you’ll be sure to not be the aide everyone dislikes.