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In The Life of A CNA

Updated on June 10, 2016
Breeana Gardipee profile image

Breeana has been a CNA at South Shore Hospital since April of 2015. She is currently enrolled at MATC, for her Respiratory Therapy degree.

What People Think We Do

Many people don't realize what a certified nursing assistant actually does. I have had many people ask me, "Why do you do a job, where all you do is whip old people butts all day long?" People out there who aren't in the medical field, don't realize the hardships that a CNA has to go through. People think that, being a nursing assistant is an easy job, and that's why fast food workers should make more than us an hour. We just sit around, and wash people up. Easy enough right? Anyone can do this job, right? "Being a nursing assistant seems so easy, that I could do it all day, everyday." These common acquisitions are told to me on a regular basis. Many of you might even think the same. "This job is so easy, anyone can do it." Well, most of you are in for a rude awakening.

What Nursing Assistants Really Do

Us nursing assistants work crazy hours. It isn't a 9-5 job for us. Depending on what shift you work. I, myself work 6:30 am to 7 pm. Now most of you are thinking this is no problem. Twelve hours...easy as pie. Well, you are wrong. On a daily basis, nursing assistants bathe patients, walk them in the hallways, help them to the bathroom, help them eat their food, and even clean up any messes. For example, if a patient misses the toilet when using the bathroom, housekeeping does not come in to clean the mess. We clean the mess. Whether it is urine, feces, vomit, anything you can think of, we clean it up.

Now aside from all that "easy" work we do, we also have to clean and change Foley catheters, urostomy bags, colostomy bags, jp drains, and anything else that collects bodily fluids. Most of you are probably googling what most of these are because if you don't work in health care or have one of these, you might not know it even existed.

Nursing assistants also monitor patients vital signs for nurses. Most of the time the nurses grab the vitals at the beginning of the shift, but there are occasions where we are grabbing them, or even double checking vitals in case the patient doesn't seem to be acting at their baseline. It is important for us to make sure that the patients vitals are stable and are in a healthy range. If not we must notify the nurse, "if we can get a hold of them," so they can figure out what to do and call the doctors to see what is the best option for the patient.

Now, we will be getting into the best part. Patients that come in with altered mental status. These are our "favorite" patients. I write this sarcastically because if you have ever met an AMS person, you would understand. AMS, is no joke. It is hard to try and bring a confused patient back to reality. There are times where us nursing assistants are hit, kicked, punched, pooped on, urinated on, and called every name in the book. Understanding this, we never hurt the patient no matter what they do to us, and we never provoke the patient. We make sure we are in a calm state as not to irritate them any more then they might already be. It is hard to want to give care to someone who just wants to hurt you the whole time. But we do it. I do it because I love my job and I love helping people.

We do have our sad moments too. At the hospital we get a lot of patients that are regularly coming and going. They know they are in the last stages of life. You grow bonds with these patients and their families. It is hard when someone you have come to know and care for as your own family is sent to the great beyond. The even worse part about it, is having to bag up the body to be sent down to the morgue after the family has said their goodbye's. Imagine you bagging up the cold, dead body of one of your loved ones. It would be almost impossible for anyone to do. We do it, so they can be sent to where they need to go for the funeral. We do it after the family leaves, so they don't have to deal with seeing that horrible picture as one of the last moments. It is almost impossible every time I have to do this, but I do it because if we don't, no one else will.

Don't get me wrong now, we do have some pretty good times as well. We get the patients that come and they just make jokes and want to see you laugh. They talk with you, and could talk to you for hours because the warm feeling we have in our smiles makes them feel welcomed by you. They feel as though they can trust you even if they have only known you for a few minutes. They trust you with their lives, and trust that you will do everything in your power to make them comfortable and to help them get better so they can leave. You have the patients in their 80's and older that curse and then say, "I'm sorry," and you can't help but giggle because they are so sweet and innocent.

I love my job and everything I do with it. I may not want to stay in this position forever, but I sure want to make an impact on everyone that I can before I move on to my next practice. I want to show them that they don't have to be afraid, as most are as soon as they come to the floor. I want to show them that, when their family is away, we will be their family away from family. We will love and care for them as we would our own family.

Quick Video of Nursing Assistant Life


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    • Breeana Gardipee profile imageAUTHOR

      Breeana Gardipee 

      2 years ago from South Milwaukee

      Thanks. Why don't you come tell my boss that. Haha. Only kidding. But I figured it might help enlighten some people and they could realize about what we actually do vs what they think we do.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      A great insight into what CNAs really do, Breeana. I have never undervalued this work, and you deserve a pay rise. Well done.

    • Breeana Gardipee profile imageAUTHOR

      Breeana Gardipee 

      2 years ago from South Milwaukee

      Thank you Mel. A lot of people do take us for granted.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      2 years ago from San Diego California

      I have never thought Nurse's Assistant looked like an easy job. It looks like a very difficult job, and whatever you are making you definitely deserve more. Great hub!


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