I am currently working as a CNA in a hospital while I complete my pre-req's for school and I LOVE it. I recently transferred from Tele to ICU and the work, while it can be hard (turning heavy patients who push against you as you turn them) it is also fascinating. All sorts of patients come thru ICU; OD, acute MI, open heart, CVA, MVA...I could go on for days. It is a constant learning experience; I am in the room while the RN does the initial assessment, I ask questions about the multiple drips the patient is on, questions about the vents, questions about tests - in fact the nurses I work with welcome any and all questions from me. And I have a lot! I am learning so much just from having my hands on up to 9 different patients every night.
Yes there is time spent changing poopy bottoms and seeing horrific stuff suctioned from a pts mouth...but it's such a GREAT learning experience that I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's incredibly gratifying to see a patient come successfully off of a vent and sit up in bed and TALk to you. And yes, patients die. And everyone is sad to see them go but it's incredibly moving to be in the room when someone passes and we are all there touching the patient and making that time as peaceful as possible. And as another poster pointed out - someday in the future it might well be ME in that bed and I would want someone willing to wipe the nasty stuff from my bottom with compassion and understanding. And to hold my hand when I am expressing my concern about a scheduled procedure.
And for the record, ALL the ICU nurses I work with are right there with me wiping. Starting as a CNA is a very valuable experience that I will take with me all the way thru nursing school and into my future. I can't compare my situation with a NH but as a hospital CNA I can tell you my job is rewarding financially as well. Good Luck!