Does it get better?


I just started my first CNA job and I'm having a hard time. Keep in mind, this is my first gig in healthcare and I have no prior experience doing this kind of work. There's also the fact that I didn't really practice skills in my class -- we watched videos on how to do them, and that was the extent of it. So I'm basically having to learn the skills ground up in the nursing home.

After they hired me, I was given four days of orientation and then put out on the floor by myself. Last night was my second shift by myself and it was rough, I didn't think I'd ever get out of there. I am really trying my hardest to do a good job and hang in there, but it is SO HARD when I am new and still learning everything and thus, very slow. It seems to take me forever to turn, clean and change an incontinent resident by myself, especially if they're particularly heavy, contracted, etc etc. What I hate most is that I feel it's not fair to the other residents when I'm so slow like this. It means it's that much longer before they're tended to and that fact just depresses me. At the same time, though, it's not like it's something I can entirely help. I'm hoping I'll get better and quicker with time and experience, but in the mean time, it's hard.

When I have experienced aides to help me out and finish my assignment, it's a little easier but last night I was working with two other brand new aides that are going through the same predicament I am. We have 12 residents a piece and while that may not seem like much to someone who's been there a while, to a newbie fresh out of school it's nigh impossible.

We're all on the 3-11 shift and when we first come in, everything seems easy enough; almost too easy, in fact. Just pass out ice water, make sure everyone's OK and doesn't need to be changed, and start getting everyone ready for supper. It's after dinnertime and feedings that everything gets CRAZY. It's just this one huge rush to get everyone in bed and cleaned up, changed, etc etc. on time, and on top of that there'll be baths/showers to do, ADLs to chart, rooms to clean up and snacks to pass out, etc. At this point in time I just don't know how to keep up with it all and I just feel like an incompetent moron for not being able to provide the quality and efficient care my residents deserve.

A part of me honestly just wants to throw in the towel and go back to my old job, then save up money until I can go back to school for something different. Nursing was what I wanted to do since I was a little girl, and helping take care of my dad while he was terminally ill cemented that decision for me, or so I thought. It seems cheesy but I've always been one of those passionate, emotional types that views nursing as a special calling and a dream; I've always loved people and wanted to take care of those in need. But these last few days have been so stressful I just don't know... It kills me to see all these people in need and me being unable to do as much for them as I'd like due to being so slow and inept and working under extremely limited time constraints.

I really don't want to give up because I've always prided myself on being a strong, can-do person and I try and tell myself, the worst thing I can do right now is quit and give up. Things certainly won't get better if I give up now, but they might if I stick with it and give it a chance. Even if I wind up getting fired due to incompetence, at least I can say I tried my best and didn't just quit when the going got tough. It's really just concern for the residents that makes me question this career path. The fact that I have so much trouble managing my time and doing the most basic of CNA duties like cleaning and changing an immobile, incontinent resident makes me wonder if I'm cut out for this line of work. It takes me FOREVER to get some residents changed and it always seems like I've made some stupid error, like put the diaper on crooked or missed a little bit of poop somewhere that still needs wiping off. My biggest fear is that I won't get any better or faster and residents will start developing skin breakdown, infection etc. because I took too long to get to them. I wonder if maybe I should just let the more competent, experienced people do this job and find something I'm more suited to.

The anxiety and stress is really killing me and admittedly, it's kind of hard for me to get a handle on it. I try to tell myself I knew what I was getting into, I had read countless reports of what a hard job CNA was and how many people outright quit because it's too much, but I was convinced I could handle it, I told myself I loved the elderly and I wanted to be there to care for them and make their last days a little brighter. If I can't make it as a CNA then I'll probably forget about nursing altogether since I hear the stress only gets worse the higher up you get and the more responsibility you have.

I'd just like some words of advice or consolation and to know if my experience is normal, if it was this hard on other CNAs when they first started out, etc. or if I'm just really incompetent. Is it normal to take forever putting people to bed and getting them cleaned up, etc. when you first start? How long does it take before you get faster and better?


22 Posts

Hey turtlecat, hang in there!!! I'm no CNA yet but I hope to get through my course in the coming months to become one. I am sure you have what it takes, you just need to break through the new job jitters and you'll be great. All the best to you :)


6 Posts

Its hard to be a nac no.matter how much experience you have. What helped me was watching the seasoned aides and learning some of their tricks. Offer to help them with some of their patients and you might be more apt to get help when you need it. Hang in there and give it a couple months.


21 Posts

It's hard starting out in healthcare. You will be slow. You will make mistakes. You will improve every day. I try to put on a smile and have a good attitude every day I walk into work. (And I am NOT a bubbly, shiny, happy person.) I like this work, I enjoy not sitting at a desk all day. I like interacting with patients.

It can be hard to learn if the culture at your facility is negative. Brush it off and remember that it is temporary. Your CNA experience will prepare you for a lot of the "little things" in nursing school.

Team up with your co-workers to get things done. I think it always goes faster with help, especially for all those things you always forget to bring into the room. You'll learn to anticipate what those are and start to carry them around regularly. Make lists if that helps. I do as a nurse. Things can be hectic and you'll never just remember everything you need to do. Find your routine. Use that meal downtime, if there is any, to set things up you need for bedtime. Efficiency is key and will get you a long way.

There will be days you won't get done on time. That goes for all of us.


32 Posts

I've just started at a SNF recently, but on a different shift.

You're not alone! It does get better with experience. My first night was one I'd like to forget -- I made everything hard for myself (e.g. forgetting supplies --> make multiple trips in and out of the room). I was so stressed out with the changes, being the last one to finish, and monitoring fall-risk residents that got out of bed every 10 minutes that I wanted to quit. However, I powered through and I'm glad I did. With multiple shifts under my belt, I feel a lot more confident in my skills.

Perhaps this is common knowledge, but I find it easier to log-roll a resident towards me rather than away from me. I find that some of the bed brakes at the facility leave a lot to be desired. On the first night, I tried the latter method and found myself pushing the resident and bed away from me consistently. This method is uncomfortable for the resident and it's not good for your back, especially with the larger residents on the floor. The next night I rolled them towards me -- it was like night and day for my back and for my efficiency.

Keep at it and you'll get the hang of things!

nguyency77, CNA

527 Posts

It gets better. Once you get to know your residents, you will know each routine like clock-work.

Sending hugs your way!