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5 Ways Nurses Can Support New CNA’s in Long-Term Care

Nurses Article   (1,271 Views | 6 Replies | 1,038 Words)

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

12 Followers; 125 Articles; 27,211 Profile Views; 292 Posts

How Do You Show Your Support and Appreciation?

Getting a new CNA on the unit is an exciting day. Nurses mentor, train, and educate these essential workers to fill a critical and much-needed role in the healthcare team. Discover 5 ways you can support new CNA’s in the long-term care setting.

5 Ways Nurses Can Support New CNA’s in Long-Term Care
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What are CNAs?

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the backbone of long-term care. They are the eyes and ears of the nurse and fill a critical part of the care continuum that you may not think about often enough. According to Rasmussen College, CNA is a broadly based term for a group of healthcare professionals that may or may not be “certified.” However, in skilled-nursing facilities or home health agencies that receive Medicare monies, they are always certified. The terms used for these professionals may also vary from state to state and include registered nursing assistants or RNA and state-tested and approved nursing assistants or STNA. 

CNA Responsibilities

CNAs complete basic care tasks that include bathing, feeding, and moving or repositioning patients. Most CNAs work in long-term care nursing settings such as skilled nursing, long-term care, and assisted living facilities. They may also work in home health agencies and hospice. Not only do CNAs assist with activities of daily living, but they provide companionship, patient advocacy, and observe and report any changes in the patient’s condition during care. 

CNAs Desire and Deserve Respect

I’ve worked closely with and supervised CNAs for the better part of my twenty-plus year nursing career. During this time, I’ve heard countless nursing assistants report that many nurses don’t respect them as much as they would like to be respected or even view them as a vital part of the nursing team. This is an issue that I’ve strived to change in every role I’ve held, including staff nurse, nurse manager, director, and now as a manager of a company that trains and places nursing assistants into jobs. 

How Nurses Can Collaborate With CNAs

I often talk to nursing assistants about ways to work more collaboratively with nurses. However, I think it is important for nurses to understand how we can collaborate more effectively with nursing assistants too. Here are five ways every nurse can strive to support CNAs in their long-term care role. 

Be a Mentor

We often think of mentorship as something that only happens between peers. However, when I think about my career, I can identify physicians, therapists, and other healthcare professionals who mentored me at different times. Nurses should actively look for ways to provide mentorship to nursing assistants. 

When a new CNA begins on the unit, be sure to introduce yourself and let them know your interest in being a resource for them. You can also offer to meet with them weekly or monthly just to check in on how they are doing and if there are any questions they may have that you can answer. Letting your nursing assistants know from the beginning that they can ask you for help will set up a solid and collaborative work relationship. 

Teach the Importance of the Care Plan

Nurses know the importance of the care plan and use it daily. But, have you ever sat down to explain it’s importance to the CNAs who care for your patients or residents? Take a little time to teach new CNAs to your unit how to use the care plan to ensure that they are providing the right care to each patient. Spending time with them may also help them to feel comfortable with asking other questions or just having an open conversation. 

Answer Their Questions

Let’s be honest, all nurses are short on time and those in long-term care are certainly no different. Plan out a little time each shift to connect with newer CNAs and answer any questions they might have. You can start by simply being as available as possible to help with simple transfers or to take a look at a resident’s skin during pericare or a bed bath. Being present or helping provide care gives you a chance to observe the CNA, do a thorough assessment, and build a strong working relationship with the staff. 

Be Kind

Nursing is stressful.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about all of the tasks you must complete in an eight or twelve-hour shift. Feelings of stress and anxiety can often manifest themselves in being short or snippy when someone needs your help or asks a question that you think they should already know the answer. These are the times when you should take a little time to be kind. 

Kindness isn’t always our first reaction to some situations. However, the more you flex your kindness muscle, the more natural it will become. A few ways you can show kindness to a CNA include:

  • Take a lunch or break with the new CNA
  • Give them a hand before they ask for help
  • Offer to teach them a new skill or one they need to improve upon
  • Give a compliment when they least expect it
  • Show gratitude by saying thanks or writing a note or kudos

Give Constructive Feedback

It isn’t always comfortable to give feedback. However, it’s part of a healthy and progressive work environment. As a nurse, you must learn to give and receive feedback with honesty, humility, and compassion. Providing constructive and usable feedback to CNAs is an essential part of your job, but it may not come naturally to you at first. 

A few tips for giving constructive feedback to the CNAs you work with include:

  • Focus on the behavior, not the person. 
  • Always provide positive and negative feedback together
  • Give specific examples of areas of improvement
  • Help create a learning plan that has goals and target dates

Long-term care nurses could never survive without the help and support of CNAs. So, then next time you see one of your favorite CNAs, let them know how much you appreciate them and try out of one of these ways to offer your support.  

Do you have other examples of ways nurses can be supportive of CNAs? If so, leave a comment below!

Melissa been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She works for a start-up overseeing the lab & clinical operations of a hybrid CNA program. She enjoys mentoring new healthcare staff and writing about her experiences.

12 Followers; 125 Articles; 27,211 Profile Views; 292 Posts

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NRSKarenRN has 43 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion.

5 Followers; 10 Articles; 15,057 Posts; 166,887 Profile Views

Pairing a new CNA with an experienced one who has good skills and communicates well is important to get newbie off to a good start

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Bloop41 has 4 years experience as a CNA.

39 Posts; 766 Profile Views

As a current CNA + nursing student-- I've learned so much about both what I do want to do and what I DON'T want to do as a nurse.

Yes, of course, a med pass takes priority over feeding or toileting a patient, for example. But I have seen many nurses ignore "red alert" emergency call bells when all the other CNAs are occupied and residents have fallen as a result. On the flip side, there have been nurses that listened to my spidey-sense about a patient decompensating and been able to intervene to prevent further complications, despite the fact that I'm "just an aide," without a seasoned nurse's judgement. 

I strongly believe that the day I think I'm too important of a nurse to help turn, bathe or toilet a patient is the day I need to leave bedside. And may God strike me down if I ever ignore the concerns of a tech or an aide at the expense of a patient. 

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curlnbe has 4 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Telemetry/Step Down.

7 Posts; 63 Profile Views

I agree with the article. A good CNA is worth their weight in gold. When I work with CNAs, I try to coordinate in the beginning of the shift whenever possible so that we can go see patients together and help each other out if needed. I also always thank CNAs for their good work in person and to my supervisors, when reviews are done. 

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simba and mufasa has 16 years experience.

2 Articles; 26 Posts; 151 Profile Views

I was a CNA for 10 years  before I became an RN. I really enjoyed my job, I worked with great nurses and  we always discussed the plan of the day and which patients to see first. I also became an RN in a LTCF and the med pass can be too heavy, it is impossible at times to answer call lights and and to assist with toileting. It's important to concentrate and not be disturbed. However, a new CNA should be given a good orientation. CNAs rock and are the eyes and ears for nurses. Thank you CNAs.

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EBinsfieldRN has 22 years experience as a ADN, RN and specializes in Med Surg, Geriatrics,Hospice/Home Care, Wound Care.

5 Posts; 210 Profile Views

Hear, hear!!

CNAs are a crucial member of their healthcare team, and often the eyes/ears that first detect the subtle changes in a patient's condition. Some of the very best nurses I've known and worked with during my nursing career began theirs as CNAs. They are fully deserving of professional respect.

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Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

12 Followers; 125 Articles; 292 Posts; 27,211 Profile Views

On 6/25/2020 at 4:50 PM, Bloop41 said:

As a current CNA + nursing student-- I've learned so much about both what I do want to do and what I DON'T want to do as a nurse.

Yes, of course, a med pass takes priority over feeding or toileting a patient, for example. But I have seen many nurses ignore "red alert" emergency call bells when all the other CNAs are occupied and residents have fallen as a result. On the flip side, there have been nurses that listened to my spidey-sense about a patient decompensating and been able to intervene to prevent further complications, despite the fact that I'm "just an aide," without a seasoned nurse's judgement. 

I strongly believe that the day I think I'm too important of a nurse to help turn, bathe or toilet a patient is the day I need to leave bedside. And may God strike me down if I ever ignore the concerns of a tech or an aide at the expense of a patient. 

@Bloop41 Yes! Being a CNA before ever being a nurse taught me how to be a better nurse & lead a team. Listening to the CNAs and helping them provide patient care will make you a valuable team member in any setting! Good luck as you progress your career. ~Melissa

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