Certified Nursing Assistant

Job Description

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are there whenever a patient has a need for help with personal care. CNAs are there to help their patients, regardless of age, to perform the most basic daily tasks.

Essentially, Certified Nursing Assistants are responsible for providing a lot of basic care to patients who otherwise struggle to do those tasks themselves. These tasks might include assisting a patient with bathing themselves, eating their food or meals, grooming themselves, moving around or general mobility, and more.

Certified Nursing Assistants take some of the burden off of Registered Nurses by helping their patients complete tasks that are relatively simple. This frees up the Registered Nurse to focus on other things that are more pressing.

Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) typically work under the supervision of a licensed nurse and play a key role in the lives of their patients.

Nurses’ aides typically have extensive daily contact with each patient. They are also responsible for keeping the nurse up to date on important information about their patients. Some of the key job duties for a Certified Nursing Assistant are essential to improving a patient's overall well-being and helping them resume their normal lifestyle and work towards a pathway to a healthy overall well-being.

One of the most important things to remember about Certified Nursing Assistants is that their job duties and responsibilities largely revolve around assisting patients with tasks that we take for granted until we can no longer perform them on our own.

CNAs help assist RNs and other healthcare professionals by taking care of some of the tasks that would consume a lot of their normal routine. Some of these tasks include taking vital signs of patients at certain intervals.

One way that this is a good example of helping other healthcare professionals is when a Registered Nurse is speaking with the patient and asking about how they are feeling, or getting ready to give them some new medication — having a Certified Nursing Assistant take their vital signs and record it for them is a great way to speed up the pace of care and get more done in a timely fashion.

Another job duty for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around helping patients eat their meals or eat some snacks throughout the day. Certified Nursing Assistants are tasked with helping serve meals to their patients and track their nutritional intake and water consumption.

For those patients who are bedridden or have difficulty moving, Certified Nursing Assistants are tasked with helping patients move around, increase their mobility, bathe themselves, and get dressed.

CNAs are also in charge of various duties that help other healthcare professionals or Registered Nurses in a variety of ways like assisting them with their paperwork.

The healthcare industry can be a chaotic environment that requires several different things going on at any given time. Certified Nursing Assistants can assist their supervising nurse or other healthcare professionals by collecting and organizing paperwork or assisting and tending to multiple patients at once.

CNAs are also tasked with observing any changes in a patient through observation or careful examination of their conditions.




Now that we've highlighted what some job duties are expected of Certified Nursing Assistants, we're going to elaborate on some of the responsibilities that a CNA is responsible for during their normal routine. A nurse’s aide or nursing assistant may provide assistance with any of the following tasks:

  • Getting dressed

  • Bathing and skin care routines

  • Feeding

  • Oral and hair care

  • Making beds

  • Assisting with toileting needs or catheter or ostomy care

  • Bladder and bowel care

  • Obtaining vital signs (checking blood pressure, pulse, temperature, respirations)

  • Assisting patients with walking

  • Assisting with range-of-motion exercises

  • Using patient handling devices safely to assist wheelchair-bound patients

  • Turning and properly positioning bedridden patients on a regular schedule

  • Making prompt reports to the nurse when a change is observed in a patient

  • Keen awareness of safety

  • Observing, reporting and documentation

  • Providing post-mortem care


Certified Nursing Assistants are in charge of assisting Registered Nurses with a variety of tasks. The most important responsibility for Certified Nursing Assistants is to attend to the needs of the patients under their care. Certified Nursing Assistants are responsible for helping keep track of their patients, and the first part of that is to observe the patient and update the relevant healthcare professionals or supervising nurses when necessary.

Some of these patient updates or notifications are related to how a patient's vital signs are reading, their food intake, liquid intake, overall condition improvement level, and any changes that they have noticed.

In addition, Certified Nursing Assistants are responsible for assisting patients with a variety of tasks that healthy individuals often take for granted. Some of these assistance measures include helping patients get up or move around while they are bedridden, clean and sanitize patient areas, bathing themselves, getting dressed, and changing their bed sheets.

In addition, Certified Nursing Assistants might be tasked with other common tasks like serving them meals or helping the patient consume their food. Certified Nursing Assistants are responsible for assisting patients with bathing, getting dressed, providing bedpans, emptying their bedpans, and assisting patients with getting groomed.

Another thing that CNAs are responsible for include helping patients with any questions that they might have as it relates to their care. Because the supervising nurse or Physician can be busy doing other things, Certified Nursing Assistants might be the only available healthcare professional that they can talk to regarding some concerns they have with their care, questions about future treatment options, understand their own care timeline, and more.

As a Certified Nursing Assistant, one key responsibility is to answer those questions or concerns through effective communication techniques. Part of these effective communication techniques are designed to help calm them down about some of their anxiety related to their care or their medical treatment.

Another responsibility for Certified Nursing Assistants is to make sure that the supervising care team after your shift has all the information they need to effectively and efficiently care for the patient. As we've mentioned earlier, RNs cannot manage and interact with all their patients at any given time.

This is only compounded by the fact that the teams often shift care based on different work shifts or work hours. This means that one care team isn't always keen on what was said in the previous shift, and what the RNs or Physicians told the patient at that time. In other words, CNAs are responsible for writing down important things that the next care team needs in order to provide the most efficient and effective care.

The CNA is responsible for assisting the next care team to make sure that they have all the documentation and up to date information to make sure that they can hit the ground running when they begin their shift. This ensures that the patient doesn't feel like they have to re-explain everything to their care team who is supposed to understand what is going on or what some of their concerns were in the previous shift.

Certified Nursing Assistants are also responsible for responding to the care lights that come on in a hospital, healthcare facility, or nursing home. These indicator lights typically alert the help desk that the patient needs some assistance with something, and Certified Nursing Assistants are responsible for checking in on those patients to make sure that they have everything they need or are cared for.

Answering these assistance calls or assistance indicator lights are another fantastic way in which Certified Nursing Assistants help patients get adjusted to and more comfortable with their routine.

Certified Nursing Assistants are also responsible for taking care of some of the other busy work that might happen with a patient while they are being cared for by a Registered Nurse or Physician.

For instance, CNAs might take a patient's vital signs while they are talking with the supervising healthcare professional, or they might assist with the setup and use of medical equipment during various medical procedures.

Setting up the medical equipment might mean that you're positioning it so the Physician or Registered Nurse has access to it when they need it, or setting up all the tools for the upcoming exams or medical procedures. In some states, Certified Nursing Assistants might be asked to do more than just set it up — they might also be asked to assist with the medical procedure.

For those Certified Nursing Assistants who work with patients outside of a hospital or healthcare facility, and directly interact with them and care for them in their own home, CNAs might be responsible for helping assist patients with consuming their medication, changing their bandages, administering oxygen, and recording other medical information.

Another responsibility for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around filling out important forms, records, reports, or logs of the activities that a patient is participating in or some of the other medical checks that we've highlighted above.

Certified Nursing Assistants are also responsible for staying up to date on some of the current healthcare industry practices, current career and job role responsibilities, modern care techniques, industry research trends, and more. Part of staying up to date on all of the important things we've highlighted above typically comes in the form of completing continuing education credits.

In nearly every healthcare role, the completion of continuing education credits is essential to ensuring that every healthcare professional in the hospital or healthcare facility is practicing the most efficient and effective care, and ultimately reducing the employer's liability. This helps the hospital and healthcare facility remain competitive in the industry as they can provide the most well-rounded and up-to-date care.

Another part of these continuing education credits revolves around actively engaging in and participating with professional organizations, attending career educational opportunities, and maintaining CNA licensures.

All states requires the successful completion of a state licensure exam for all nursing assistants who work in nursing homes. The nursing assistant must be state-approved and be listed on the state registry.

The levels of certification for nursing assistants are certified (CNA), licensed (LNA) or state tested and approved (STNA).

The National Network of Career Nursing Assistants can provide more information about a career as a certified nursing assistant.

To learn more about what it takes to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, take a look at our Certified Nursing Assistant Career Path.



Common Activities On The Job

For those who are interested in pursuing a potential career as a Certified Nursing Assistant, a glimpse into what a normal day might provide you with a clearer picture of whether or not it is a potential career that you should pursue. We've outlined some of the most common activities you can expect to do each day while working as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

• Evaluate Patients

Arguably the most common activity on the job for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around evaluating patients. This starts from the moment you begin interacting with them to the moment you move on to the next patient.

As a Certified Nursing Assistant, you will become skilled in listening to what the patient says and indicates based on verbal and non-verbal communication. Sometimes it's not about what they're saying in regards to their care and how they're feeling, but what they're not saying.

• Assist Patients With Normal Routine Activities

Another common activity on the job for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around assisting patients with their normal routines. As we've highlighted earlier, this activity frequently involves interacting with patients to assist them with things like bathing themselves, getting dressed, eating food, and getting ready for the upcoming day.

• Monitor and Record Important Information

Another important daily activity for Certified Nursing Assistants is to monitor patients and record important information based on what you're monitoring. This might revolve around recording their food intake, blood pressure readings, or comments that they've mentioned when you're communicating with them.

This entire activity is designed to make sure that all the relevant healthcare professionals have all the information they need to provide care to the patient.

• Work With Technology

Another common activity that Certified Nursing Assistants will be tasked with is to work with technology on a daily basis and use it to assist patients and record the important information we've highlighted above.

• Communicate With Patients

The next most common activity on the job for Certified Nursing Assistants is to communicate with patients. This communication might range from helping them feel a little bit more comfortable with some of the anxiety they are feeling in regards to their medical care, or get a gauge on how they are feeling for the day. Effective communication is one of the most critical parts to succeeding as a Certified Nursing Assistant.

• Communicate With Other Healthcare Professionals

Effective care requires a team effort, and Certified Nursing Assistants have to maintain that communication with their healthcare peers and supervisors. Part of the daily routine and common activity for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around communicating with other healthcare professionals to ensure that they have the information they need to care for the patient as well when you're no longer caring for them or leaving because your shift has ended.

• Complete Patient Medical Information

Filling out patient information and assisting with medical records is critical to ensuring that there is a document trail for the patient's care. This helps every healthcare professional keep track of how the patient is feeling, what their treatment plan has consisted of, important metrics to gauge and evaluate how their care has developed and improved over time.

Certified Nursing Assistants are tasked daily with completing the patient medical information efficiently to ensure everyone has access to the relevant data.

• Stay Up To Date On Industry Knowledge

Another daily and common activity for Certified Nursing Assistants revolves around staying up to date on industry knowledge. As mentioned earlier, this consists of completing continuing education credits and attending certification renewal requirements.

• Miscellaneous Administrative Duties

Depending on the role and work environment, Certified Nursing Assistants might also be tasked with completing miscellaneous administrative duties throughout their day. This might be related to assisting other healthcare patients with recordkeeping, or documenting conversations between Physicians and patients.




As a Certified Nursing Assistant, there are several important skills that you should focus on developing in order to be successful throughout your career. These skills also highlight how important it is to be an effective communicator and empathize with patients who are under your direct care.

As a healthcare professional, you need to be able to work with other professionals who come from a variety of different backgrounds and together to solve challenges that arise in each patient's unique situation.



Must want to help people. You will not be able to complete some of the tasks if you don't have an affinity to help others.


Must be able to compartmentalize tasks and duties. Keep documents and records orderly and not mix up important documents or medications.


Must be well versed in taking vital signs; temperature, blood pressure, pulses and respiration. Must be able to collect specimens, and recording results on those specimens.


Must be able to talk between patients, nurses, doctors, and family members. Must speak clearly and pass information effectively.


Show empathy to their patients. Must be able to show compassion to those who are at a vulnerable and trying time in their lives.

Patient Assistance

Must be comfortable bathing, dressing, feeding patients. Help them move, sit, and assist them with bedpans.

Indirect Care

Keep areas clean, patients comfy, meet needs, create a safe environment.

Time Management

Use effective time management to help the hospital and healthcare facility keep patient care and interaction schedules on track.

Attention To Detail

Must be able to focus on important details in a patient's mannerisms and behavior as it relates to patient care, their fluid intake, nutritional intake, and personal habits.


Must be able to work with other healthcare professionals and medical professionals to assist with patient care and improve patient outcomes.

Quick Study

Must be able to pick up new concepts quickly and implement them into the daily routine of a Certified Nursing Assistant.


Working Conditions


Because of staffing shortages in recent years, many nursing assistants find themselves in a position of attempting to provide quality care to a high number of patients at one time.

The stress of these working conditions, along with the job’s heavy workload and the physical demands, make the turnover rate high for nursing assistants.

Nursing assistants have multiple options when it comes to employment locations:

  • Hospitals

  • Nursing homes

  • Hospice

  • Assisted living facilities

  • Home health care

  • Community based long-term care programs

  • Correctional institutions

  • Adult or child day care facilities

To learn more about what it takes to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, take a look at our Certified Nursing Assistant Career Path.



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