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Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA

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The job of a CNA can be very difficult at times, but even so, there are some nursing assistants out there who genuinely enjoy doing their jobs, as opposed to those who only work as a CNA because they have to. And as a nursing professional, you are expected to act with a certain amount of professionalism. Whether dealing with a patient, their families, your superiors, or your fellow co-workers, it’s important to follow a few do’s and don’ts in the workplace so that everyone can get along. In the end, this can make everyone’s lives a little easier, and it only requires a little extra effort on your part. With that being said, let’s cover some tips and tricks of professionalism in the workplace as a CNA at once.

Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA

4 Important Things to Keep in Mind

  1. Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA - Scope of PracticeKnow the policies of the workplace — Keep track of how your workplace operates regarding policies, this can be anything from the uniforms you wear to specific protocols for certain situations and even to gifts and whether they can be accepted or not. If you are at all confused, ask as many questions as necessary throughout your interview, orientation, and when just getting started.
  2. Understand your job description — Get a good idea of your role in the workplace and the things you can and cannot do. Never perform a task that is outside of your scope of practice, as it can lead to you getting in trouble or worse, a patient’s life could be at risk. The general rule of thumb is that if you didn’t receive training for a certain task or it isn’t in your job description, don’t perform it.
  3. Get to know your patients — If you spend lots of time with specific patients (occurs more often in nursing homes than hospitals), it can’t hurt getting to know them a little better. After all, patients are more than numbers and schedules, they are real people going through real problems at the moment. For instance, you can learn a lot about a patient from their nursing report which provides all the information about them including behaviors and health conditions. Beyond that, get to know more about the patient’s likes and dislikes regarding daily living and try to make them as comfortable as possible. This not only makes their lives easier but can also make them more cooperative which ultimately benefits you.
  4. Learn common illnesses and behaviors — It isn’t extremely difficult learning about illnesses and behaviors and what causes them (think dementia or alzheimers), just look for the patterns. After working the job of a CNA for a while, you’ll start to understand what’s normal behavior for a patient and what is unusual. Knowing the cause behind why a patient is behaving unusually gives you better understanding to perform your job better, just so long as you don’t give out medical advice.

Interacting With Staff, Patients, and Their Families

The way in which you will interact with staff, patients, and families will vary depending on who it is you are talking to, which is why we’ll provide you with some tips to do it the right way. Remember, professionalism in the workplace as a CNA requires you to get along with everyone.

With patients and residents

When speaking with residents and patients, it’s important that you know your residents individually and can treat them as humans, all while being able to protect their privacy and their independence as a person they can trust. Here are some tips when interacting with residents and patients:

  • Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA - PatientsAlways greet your patients when interacting with them, first by knocking on their door before entering and then proceeding to announce who you are and why you are there. This is so that the resident is able to feel comfortable at all times.
  • Get to know a patient’s likes and dislikes so you can get along better with them
  • While cleaning a room, make sure you keep the resident’s personal preferences in mind and that private possessions are kept in their respective places
  • Always respect others’ privacy, regarding things such as their personal privacy (close doors, draw curtains, etc.), the reason why they are here, and other sensitive information that others don’t need to know
  • Don’t say anything that may hurt a resident’s feelings, whether it’s speaking badly about them or mentioning inappropriate things (such as bad smells, their lack of ability, etc.). Also, don’t say negative things even if it’s a patient you dislike
  • Try not to personally insult a patient by saying things such as “You are too heavy for me to move by myself” which can be taken personally and say something like “I am going to need another nurse’s help so that you don’t get hurt”
  • If you are very busy, let other patients know (especially if they are very demanding) but see to it that you can help them as soon as you have the chance
  • Give a patient as many options as they can so that they can still feel content, with things such as giving them a choice of dress attire, food choice, etc.
  • Give a patient as much independence as you can with things such as letting them dress themselves if they can, going to the toilet, walking, etc.
  • Take the time to listen to patients under your care to make them as comfortable as possible while also learning their personal preferences
  • Do not waste time by pretending to provide patient care when really, you are just in a room to watch TV or text on your phone
  • Do not wear watches or jewelry that can cause cuts as this can hurt residents on accident. Regarding jewelry, it is best not to wear it while at work although a watch can be handy as long as it doesn’t get in the way of providing patient care
  • You’ve probably already learned this from training, but washing your hands multiple times throughout the day is crucial for preventing the spread of infection to patients as well as yourself. You should wash your hands thoroughly before performing a CNA skill and before you leave a patient’s room
  • Always make sure that a patient is safe at all times, preventing the risk of accidents as much as you can. This can be doing things such as lowering a bed to a comfortable height for you to work with, using the proper equipment for certain tasks, practicing proper lifting and moving techniques, following precautions and proper procedures, practicing within the scope of your job, and asking for help from another aide as needed
  • Avoid making loud noises that can startle residents
  • Treat all patients equally by not choosing favorites
  • Think positive when interacting with patients, but don’t treat them like children in the process. This can help brighten up residents’ days while making them more comfortable around you

With nurse supervisors and bosses

Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA - Nurses and SupervisorsWhen interacting with nurse supervisors and other bosses, try working together in a mutually benefiting relationship instead of storing apprehensions toward them or complaining all the time about them, no matter if they are friendly or downright mean. And if a nurse is engaging in questionable behavior or endangering patients or aides, report them to their supervisor instead of causing drama. By respecting your supervisor and practicing professionalism in the workplace as a CNA, you can work together to provide amazing patient care for all residents. Here are some tips on maintaining a good relationship:

  • Keep accurate and detailed reports and charts that nurses can understand
  • Perform your tasks as soon as you can and as effectively as possible
  • When talking to a nurse or supervisor about a patient, try to keep things brief by only mentioning what they need to know about the patient as opposed to everything you did for them which is unnecessary
  • If a nurse is performing a task, try to work alongside her by doing similar tasks. For example, if a nurse is helping a patient get dressed, do things around the room such as cleaning up or collecting dirty linens
  • Only ask a nurse for help when you can’t perform a task by yourself or if other nursing assistants are busy. This helps to show that you are both dependable and competent at your job and that when you do need help, it will be for a serious job
  • Don’t speak badly about nurses or bosses around co-workers, patients, or visitors
  • Don’t suck up to your supervisors or bosses in order to make your job easier
  • Don’t report minor issues to nurse supervisors unless you want to be labeled as a tattle. You should be able to discern minor issues from major issues. For example, if you see a nursing assistant texting or on the phone when they shouldn’t be but it rarely occurs, that is minor. On the other hand, if they are constantly texting or on the phone to the point that their job performance suffers, that should be reported.

With co-workers

Professionalism in the Workplace as a CNA - Co-WorkersAlthough other CNAs are the only people that can truly relate to you about your job, there is always the possibility of not getting along with some. And though it’s highly recommended that you bond with your peers beyond the workplace setting, you should only do so when you have time and not while at work, where your full and undivided attention is needed in order to perform at your best. If you don’t happen to get along with another nursing assistant, don’t create drama by insulting, talking down to them, or making their jobs harder. Just try your best to interact as little as possible and act professionally when you must talk or work with each other. Another tip, help new aides as much as you can, because even though it can be tough explaining everything right now, it can help you tons once they become fully trained for their jobs. As they say, build bridges, don’t burn them. For more advice on getting along with co-workers as a CNA, check out this article. Some other pieces of advice include:

  • Do not go into rooms just to talk or watch TV
  • When providing patient care, talk to the patient instead of your co-worker
  • Do not laugh and joke with co-workers in hallways as residents can see this as being personally directed at them. However, you can always talk about things that need to be done in hallways.
  • Work together as much as you can, especially if it’s for a difficult task that needs to get done. This mutually benefits both you and your co-workers
  • Residents often play favorites with nursing assistants, and if you are tasked with providing patient care for a patient that does not like you much, you can always swap jobs with another CNA so that things can go more smoothly, avoiding frustration and possible safety issues
  • If a co-worker is acting questionable by neglecting, abusing (verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual), or stealing from patients, it needs to be reported
  • If co-workers are not fully performing a task (e.g. hardly bathing a patient), this should be reported to your nurse supervisors and bosses
  • Remember, only report big issues to your nurse supervisors and bosses, don’t worry so much about the minor things

With families and visitors

You should always be prepared to meet visitors who are coming to spend time with residents. This can be friends or family, and it’s important to exercise professionalism in the workplace as a CNA while they are here. To save yourself some time and frustration, you should let families know that you are a nursing assistant, not a nurse. This means that you cannot give medical advice or do anything outside of your scope of practice. If people continue to harass you, refer them to a head nurse for more information. Other than that, here are some kinds of visitors you are likely to encounter on the job and how to respond to them:

The Hyper-Critic

What they are like: How to respond to them:
  • Points out all faults and things that aren’t perfect
  • Constantly asks questions and makes requests
  • Complains about lack of care
The best you can do is apologize and try to fix the situation immediately but without taking time from what you are currently doing. Not everything can be perfect as there are lots of residents to care for, and some tasks are given higher priorities than others.


The Puzzled Visitors

What they are like: How to respond to them:
  • Just doesn’t understand the policies of the workplace
  • Wanders around into restricted areas
  • Gives food and drink to residents

Politely guide them to the proper area for visitors or explain to them what the workplace policies are and why they aren’t allowed to do certain things. Let the nurses or supervisors know immediately as their stay can endanger residents.


The Posh Family

What they are like: How to respond to them:
  • Acts as if they are above others and can do anything they want
  • Demands to talk to the higher-ups to complain
  • Treats others with disrespect
  • Threatens staff members
Remind them that you are not the one in charge and that they should refer to your supervisors as necessary (show them where they can be found). Don’t let anything they say affect your job performance, after all, they don’t know how much work it takes to be a CNA.


The Well-Mannered Visitors

What they are like: How to respond to them:
  • Treats other residents with respect
  • Knows the names of other patients and spends time with them as well
  • Knows patients’ likes and dislikes and how they feel
  • Brings gifts for nurses or offers to lend a helping hand
Make sure to thank them for their visit and keep them up-to-date with all the latest changes (don’t gossip) and what’s been going on around the workplace. There’s not much you have to worry about with these types of visitors.


The Absent Family

What they are like: How to respond to them:
  • You won’t hear much from these types of visitors because they hardly ever visit
  • Patients will ask often whether they’ve called or are planning to visit
  • Patients will try calling or writing them with no luck
Try to brighten up their mood and sympathize with them. Help them in any way you can, whether it’s making phone calls or writing letters even if you know it won’t make a difference.


*Written with the help of this article by Jayme Kinsey