We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: we think of Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, as the unsung heroes in the medical industry! Like so many other caretakers, CNAs have direct and regular contact with people who are often at their most vulnerable. They assist patients in essential day-to-day activities and will often be the first to notice when the person needs further medical attention.Since you’ll be spending so much time with patients, it’s important to ask yourself if you possess the kind of qualities that will make you effective in this sort of a position. The soft skills that make a person a right fit for this job are just as important as the technical knowledge you’ll learn in training. Whether you're just entering the information-gathering stage or have been working for years and looking for inspiration, the following qualities will help you thrive as a CNA:
1. A sense of calling
Most CNAs are in it for more than just the money. They are passionate about their work, feel a deep sense of satisfaction in helping people, and know that their everyday interactions with patients are important.Your passion for health care will translate to the patients you care for as well as the staff you’ll be working with. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you genuinely interested in interacting with patients?
- Do you believe that everyone is entitled to dignity and care?
- Are you willing to work hard to provide patients with the everyday basics that will help them thrive?
2. Attention to detail
Are you a person with strong observational skills? You’ll be spending a lot of your time with patients-- more than the doctors and most nurses do-- so any small changes that you detect in patients’ moods and behaviors can be helpful to giving them the best care possible.Here are some ways your attention to detail can help you thrive as a CNA:
- Watch out for small changes in patients. If they’re suddenly eating less, have a change in blood pressure, or complain of a new ache, communicate these details to others on the medical team.
- Take detailed, accurate notes on patient charts.
- Use nonverbal communication skills to notice needs that patients may not be able to communicate to you.
3. Interpersonal skills
Being a CNA means being part of a medical team. Your role is vital, and you need to know how best to communicate with nurses and doctors.Also important is your ability to communicate well with patients. As we’ve already mentioned, you’re the person involved in giving much of the direct care, so your ability to listen well to patients will make you very effective in your role.Interpersonal skills include all of the ways humans communicate with each other. Here are some specific types of communication that you’ll want to excel in:
- Attentive and empathetic listening: While it’s not the first thing most people think of when they hear the term communication, it’s the first one on our list because it is so vital for effective CNAs. Listening well to patients’ concerns, needs, and requests-- and not shrugging them off as unimportant-- will help you give patients the best care possible.
- Verbal communication: A gentle, compassionate tone goes a long way with patients, and they’ll tend to be more forthcoming if they sense that you’re someone they can trust. You’ll also want to hone your verbal communication skills when communicating with nurses and doctors; make sure your voice is heard without being pushy or demanding. Express your concerns about patients in a confident, reassured tone.
- Nonverbal communication: Is your body language saying what you want it to say? Be aware of how you come across to patients nonverbally. Smiling, making eye contact, and facing patients when they speak will make you seem more open to their needs.
Every day for a CNA is different. Considering that the job requires CNAs to tend to a number of varying tasks as needs arise--with new patients, sometimes in different facilities and/or homes--it’s no surprise that CNAs need to be able to adjust to change quickly.The variety is one of the aspects of the job that is enticing to many prospective CNAs. But that’s not to say it’s for everybody!Someone with the ability to go with the flow will be able to respond to the most chaotic situations that can pop up during a shift.
You’ll be doing some taxing physical labor in a job like this. You can expect to be on your feet for much of the day, helping patients move (roll over, get out of bed, bathe), and working with sometimes unwieldy equipment (a stubborn hospital bed, for instance). Keep yourself in good shape so you can handle the physical demands of the job.
It’s probably no coincidence that patience and patients are homonyms! People who are in discomfort because of an illness, age, or injury are often not the easiest people to be around; they may complain or become demanding and stubborn. It’s definitely a skill to be able to comfort patients who may be feeling a great deal of pain or fear! It’s also something that will set you apart from people who aren’t meant to be in this line of work.
7. Strong work ethic
It’s no secret that being a CNA is a lot of hard work. Long shifts and sometimes heavy patient loads mean you’ll sometimes end your shift feeling exhausted. Part of this is due to the fact that there’s not a lot of downtime. If you’re new to the job, you can be confident that your stamina will gradually increase. The best CNAs realize the importance of their jobs, work hard, and end the day feeling proud of the difference they’ve made in the lives of many.