Supporting Nursing Assistants
Updated: Nov 19, 2018
Nursing is a world started as we know it by Florence Nightingale. The roles nurses have had since Florence walked the battlefield hospitals at night has changed dramatically. Since World War II era, the field of nursing has changed and grown into a profession that is professional and unique. The role that nursing assistants have, is one that needs more attention and respect. Supporting nursing assistants is not just the duty of the supervising nurse, but for all people who are influenced by a licensed caregiver.
Being a CNA, or other type of caregiver, is not an easy job. The amount of lifting human beings for 8 to 12 hours a day, walking up and down a hall, having to help deal with the emotions of other people, is not an easy job. When you are a nurse, there are a few things that you should do for every CNA, regardless of how well they do their job.
#1. Understand before being understood.
It is easy as a nurse to come down on a CNA when they aren't doing their job as proficiently as you would like. Nurses may not be at the top of the hierarchy of the medical field, but they do have the responsibility of delegating tasks, and supervising the practitioners that literally have the word "nurse assistant" in their title. If you do a history lesson on the Stanford prison experiment, you will learn that it is easy for those who are in authority to easily start to practice dominion over the ones who are under your control.
Regardless of how a nursing assistant is working or behaving, as a nurse you should have the decency to try to understand what the CNA is going through before making judgments, and practicing dominance. This does not mean that CNA's don't need correction, or that nurses need to be soft when it comes to discipline, it means that you actively try to understand the person that is helping you, before you make corrections.
#2. Delegate wisely.
It is so easy as a nurse to make delegations, and assign tasks to an assistant without first thinking of how to help the CNA. Nurses are taught in school extensively on delegation. In school you are taught what nurses are allowed to delegate, and what you can't. While it is important to know if you can delegate, first ask yourself if you should. Asking the CNA to fill up a water mug because you are "too busy" is not good delegation. Of course you need to use your judgment, and need to focus on the tasks that are specific to a nurse role, that an assistant can't help you with, but be helpful. Your CNA is also busy, probably even more busy that you are.
#3. Be kind.
It is not easy having the job of a CNA. Being unkind to a CNA is absolutely uncalled for. It is true that some CNA's are harder workers than others. It is also true that some CNA's are not good employees, by not showing up to work on time, or taking long breaks. If you have coworkers with these types of issues hopefully management is aware and doing something about it, but for the day to day work life, regardless of how much you like the CNA, be kind to them.
Nursing assistants are people that deserve just as much or more respect than licensed nurses. When a CNA is mistreated by a patient, coworker, or other staff member, stick up for the person. According to long term living magazine, CNA's experience up to 36% turn over rate. According to beckershospitalreview.com RN's have a turn over rate of up to 14%. While there are many variables why there is such a big difference in turn over between the two jobs, it is safe to say that nursing assistants are not as happy with their jobs as nurses. For nurses, or other nursing staff to be unkind to any CNA is not acceptable, and it is a shame to the nursing profession when it happens.
As a nurse, be kind, be a thoughtful, and inspiring leader that will help make the work of a CNA better. Nurses everywhere are licensed to help others, and the better you treat your CNA, the better care they can give your patients. When you have concerns about an assistants performance, be assertive, talk about what needs to be done, but be kind.
#1. Understand, then be understood.
#2. Delegate wisely.
#3. Be kind.