Made a CNA Mad: Is it better not to help CNA's?


  • Career Columnist / Author
    Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

Last night I made a generally kind CNA mad. It was slow for the nurses so I was helping the aides and I went to a room on my fellow nurse's side thinking the aide was busy in another room. Once I saw her helping the person I asked her if she could help me adjust the person in the other bed and she asked why I was even on that side.

Throughout she made comments on how she is smart. I think she thought I was accusing her of doing a bad job. Is it best not to help aids? Does it appear to be micro managing?

Dear Made CNA Mad,

You tried to help and it went all wrong. I would love to hear some CNA points of view (POV) on this.

You say she is a kind person, yet something provoked her. Consider this POV:

  • You entered a room that was not yours and offered no explanation for why you were there (boundaries)
  • You pointed out that his/her patient had an unmet need (criticism)
  • You interrupted him/her when he/she was busy providing care (insensitive)
  • You decided that what you wanted done was more urgent than what she was doing (disregard)

Ok, that POV may seem harsh, and I purposely made it more extreme than it may have been to make a point.

But try putting yourself in the CNA's shoes to help you understand his/her reaction, which puzzled you.

In your mind, you were going out of your way to help the CNA. You could have just sat at the nurse's station and chatted, right? reality, the CNA didn't feel helped and may have been offended.

Maybe once you were in the room, you were uncomfortable being out of your zone and busied” yourself to decrease your uncomfortableness? Tolerating uncomfortableness when you're trying something new is part of learning new skills.

Try this next time. Visually picture yourself coming alongside your co worker, falling in step with them, and joining in whatever he/she is doing. Walk their path, side by side, as an equal. Ask what you can do. Communicate respect for his/her expertise and acknowledge their experience and skills.

Another exercise is to identify someone you know in real life who is a helpful person (let's call her Kimberly). Kimberly always jumps in when there is something to do, and is comfortable with others. Ask yourself What would Kimberly do, or say, in this situation?”

Keep being a helping person. Just learn to go about it in such a way that others don't misunderstand your intentions.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth



99 Posts

I have to disagree with this one. I worked in a home for mentally disabled adults, and we were ALWAYS understaffed for floor personnel. The nurses knew this, yet would roll their eyes and refuse to so much as make sure the residents were dry. We weren't even asking them to change them. The place I worked had constant call ins and many would quit mid shift due to employee mistreatment, making the workload even worse. It would have been a god send for a nurse like you.You tried to help, and she decided that you were overstepping your bounds. If you didn't help, you would be deemed lazy and thoughtless. You weren't going to win in this case. If she truly had an issue, she should have acted like an adult and spoken to you about it, not made passive aggressive comments.


1,761 Posts

Specializes in Neuro, Telemetry. Has 8 years experience.

I think it depends on the whole scenario and how you approached the aide. Where I work, we have pretty good teamwork on my shift. The nurses will help if needed, but the aides are usually good about helping each other. We all have good rapport with our nurses so when we are doing something and a nurse answers a call light, if they can't complete whatever task the patient requested, the nurse will ask us to come help. But never in a way that ignites aggressiveness. It sounds like either the aide was having a bad day or thought you were stepping on her toes by helping. Maybe you unintentionally made her feel like she wasn't fast enough or that your help was more important than what she was doing.

I would say that next time this happens just tell the aide you came to answer a call light for her and could use some help when she's done. Or even offer to help her with her task (if you have time) and let her know you need help after. Then when the aide is finished just tell her you were trying to help since they looked busy, but now you need help re positioning a patient or whatever other thing the patient needed. That's what our nurses do and we all understand that they aren't trying to imply we don't work hard or anything. This aide probably isn't used to help and it caught her off guard.


12 Posts

It's not always what we do but how we do it that can demean a person or challenge them in ways we don't always understand. When helping we must remember we are not in charge and must take directives instead of giving them. Though I believe your argument has some merit the above suggestion gives rise to a better way of aiding colleagues.


588 Posts

Specializes in PCT, RN. Has 3 years experience.

I will never, ever, ever say no to help from someone else, whether that be another CNA or a nurse.

I will say though, that CNAs generally have a pretty set routine (at least in the places I've worked) and it does get frustrating if that routine is altered because it can throw off the rest of the shift (depending on what it is).

What I do suggest if you are willing/eager to help out the CNAs (definitely encouraged!!), is just to ask them what they need help with. Generally they'll be more than happy that you asked and that you want to help, it'll keep them on their routine, and it'd help the floor to run smoothly.


256 Posts

Has 3 years experience.

I've always started the shift letting my aides know that if they need a hand, they can always call on me. In the group home I work in now, the aide on the side closest to my office has a two person assist and a hoyer in her 4 people to get up. She calls on me quite frequently and I don't mind.

When I worked skilled, my aides would call me to help with a boost, and I was always glad to. I would also stop my pass to put someone on a toilet or help them get back to bed. The aides always appreciated it.

I also told them, though, that if they asked me for something and I was really far behind, I may have to tell them to ask someone else, and they were always understanding.

I think the only aides that didn't like working with me were the ones that were really lazy or would disappear for 45 minutes at a time. I called them out and they didn't like it. But I've always had a pretty good rapport with my aides.

One thing I always did, if I walked into a room and an aide was helping bed A but bed B was ringing, I'd answer it. And if it was something I couldn't do myself, I would say, excuse me, when you're all finished there, could you please help me with this? I rarely ever got a "no."

Please and thank simple but gets you so far.

Red Kryptonite

2,212 Posts

Specializes in hospice. Has 3 years experience.

I've always considered it rude for a nurse to interrupt my care of one patient to direct me to do something for another (outside of emergencies obviously). Right now, the patient for whom I am caring deserves to be my focus and not to be made to feel unimportant because I have to rush off to someone else. Either come in and help me finish, then say, "Can you help me with X?," or just pop your head in and tell me to let you know when I'm done, then let me finish.


12 Posts

Key points: you said excuse me (you were courteous)

you asked him/her to assist when they had completed their previously initiated task (mindful of protocol in someone else's theater of action)

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience.

It's the line "you went into a room that wasn't yours". Um, as the nurse, EVERY room is yours!!


12 Posts

Bucky, you know nurses (CNA, LPN, RN) are some of the most territorial people in the world.

Has 29 years experience.
Bucky, you know nurses (CNA, LPN, RN) are some of the most territorial people in the world.

GUILTY !! No offense to anyone but I don't want you in my rooms. If my patient needs anything let me know. It isn't a territory thing, its a responsibility/accountability thing. I have seen some crazy stuff in 20 + years. Stay in your own lane.

On topic, I used to help CNA's but in MY experience the more I helped, the lazier they got. They began to expect my help every shift and when I was too busy with my own work to help them they copped attitudes. Easy fix, I'll do my work and you do yours.


12 Posts

I understand, I've seen a few things in the short time I have been in healthcare. I assist as need or when asked. I have processes when I work and most of the time I am more comfortable doing it myself. For me, not helping is not an option but when I assist that is exactly what I do, ASSIST.