Certified Nursing Assistant: Bridging the Nursing Shortage
Because of the shortage of Registered Nurses in the United States and in most Western Countries, there has been a great demand for alternative manpower to render care and certain procedures to patients. In the Philippines however, an irony, while there is an over supply of nurses, primarily due to the skyrocketing enrolment in the BSN program, there still is a shortage of nurses amongst hospitals and other institutions. Thus, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) has gained attention as a means of resolving staffing shortage, rapid patient turnover, and the increasing workload of nurses.
A CNA is one who has finished a nursing assistant-specific program which is offered by most nursing schools. After completion of the program, one may become eligible upon completion of other state-specific requirements to take the State Board CNA Certification Test. The test is composed of two parts, theoretical and clinical exam. Contrary to the Philippines, there is no specific program such as this but most hospitals and institutions would employ as Nursing Assistants those who have finished Associate in Health Science Education (AHSE), and/ or undergraduate or underboard of health-related courses. Despite this difference, both have almost parallel job descriptions.
CNAs are considered trained professionals that can work in a variety of settings and generally work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). Work settings include hospitals, out-patient facilities, home care, geriatric center, and clinics among others. But regardless of where a CNA is employed, many of the responsibilities will be the same particularly direct patient care. Included are the following:
- Nutrition: assisting with feeding
- Hygiene: bed bath, oral care, nail care, bathing, dressing, grooming
- Comfort: changing bed linens
- Elimination: assisting patients in toileting, offering bed pan or urinal, diaper change, changing urine bags
- Activity and Exercise: assisting with ambulation, transferring patient to wheelchair, turning bed ridden patients, recreational activities
- Vital Signs
- Post-Mortem Care
While the responsibilities seem to be easily accomplished, it entails physical effort especially in the hospital setting which can often prove to be the most demanding because of the constant turnover of patients. CNAs must also work in collaboration with other members of the health team and in particular, the RNs who serves as their superiors keeping them informed about any pertinent information they gather about the patient and the patient’s condition. Although they can be described as very experienced, CNAs are unable to perform many advanced duties due to legal issues and the lack of full training comparable to that of a Registered Nurse.
For personal gain, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant is also rewarding in terms of salary and bonuses of which generally is within $17,000 to $31,500 annually (US Statistics). One can also work part-time or contractual and gain more employment possibilities. In addition, trainings such as Basic Life Support and other Red Cross Trainings can level up qualifications and at the same time constituting greater salary. Institutions that provide quality care to the elderly are in great demand of CNAs, thus providing more jobs for those who intend to become CNAs. In terms of professional growth and advancement, being a CNA provides an avenue or stepping stone to becoming an LPN and later an RN.
Becoming a CNA is challenging. It is therefore imperative that one is educationally prepared and equipped with proper training in order to face the day-to-day duties and responsibilities abound. It is also important to consider that the type of working environment will make a big impact in one’s performance of his or her duties as a CNA.