A Day in the Life of a Nursing Home CNA

If you are a newbie CNA and are considering hitting the nursing home scene for your first job, there are a few things that this seasoned professional would like to share with you. It will make your life much easier if you end up working in one of these facilities. For a beginner it can look like everything is coming up roses. You really have no idea what it is like to be a CNA in a nursing home until you have been there and done that. Below is a small sampling of what your day will look like. This is not meant to scare you away but to prepare you for the inevitable that you must face to make it in this arena.

1.)  If you are first shift, your day will begin at 7am with you going through your patient list and waking folks up for breakfast. If you are lucky, you will be able to get one of your people up and ready before breakfast so you can mark them off your to do list.

2.)  Once you hand out the meal trays, feed your total care patients and take the trays back to the kitchen, you then have 2 ½ to 3 hours to have all of your patients washed, dressed and out of bed before it is time for lunch. When you go to school you are taught how to give a full bed bath and this is what you are supposedto do for each person. The fact is, this is an impossible feat. CNA’s will mark that they did a full bed bath, but in reality we are washing the sensitive areas and putting on some body spray. It sounds bad, but honestly there is no time to do it all right.

A CNA checking a resident's temperature

3.)  Once you get lunch done you have to check each patient again. You lay the ones down who usually nap in the afternoons and change the diapers of those who need to be changed. You take your vital signs and out the door you go-unless your replacement has not shown up on time. By law you are required to stay on post until another CNA arrives. If you do not you risk your license and many more nasty consequences.

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So, there is your day. It was much easier to write out than it was to experience. Let me be very clear; this work schedule is totally possible to comfortably keep up with if you have a reasonable amount of patients, the key word being “reasonable”. While your supervisor may say that a patient load of 13 to 15 is reasonable, what they really mean is that it is reasonable for you. If they had to do it, it would no longer be so reasonable. The bottom line is that with this many people to care for, it is impossible to do it 100%. (The best facility I worked in had each CNA with 8 patients each. This was very doable and even enjoyable.) Personally, I took issue with the fact that I was unable to care for each patient the way I was taught, and this is why I no longer do nursing home work. However, if you want to give it a shot, keep in mind that you are just one person. You can only do so much and if you must cut corners to get your list of tasks complete, make sure you do not cut any important ones. Your best is all you can offer, and trust me when I tell you that there is not one CNA out there with a large patient load that does everything 100%. If at the end of the day all your patients have been fed, cleaned, and kept dry and smiling, you did your job better than most!

This article is the start of a series of  articles that talk about how work is when you’re a certified nursing assistant. The article above and the thoughts expressed therein are those of the author, Tanya Glover who is a practicing CNA. 

2 Responses to A Day in the Life of a Nursing Home CNA

  1. Karen March 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I am a CNA in a skilled nursing facilities that includes both long-term care patients and rehabilitation patients. I have anywhere from 10 to 16 patients to care for in a 2-10 shift. I am continually frustrated that I am unable (not unwilling) to provide QUALITY care for all my patients. I work my tail off trying to keep up with the call lights, nurses requests, new admits, dining room duty, and other responsibilities. At the facility I work at, the current mininum CNA to patient ratio of 2.5 needs to be increased and/or redistributed for all shifts.

  2. Tanya May 30, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    I feel your pain Karen and YOU are SPECIAL indeed! Keep it up and don’t let things get you down!

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