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Page 1 Emotional and Mental Health Needs Study Guide for the CNA

As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), you are expected to care for all aspects of your patients’ health, including mental and emotional health. Mental health covers any mental disorders (including, but not limited to, schizophrenia and personality disorders); emotional health covers both emotional disabilities and simple emotional well-being. Because all patients are different, mental and emotional healthcare may vary from one patient to another. While some require extensive treatment and care regarding mental health, others only need emotional support and encouragement. When studying to become a CNA, and putting what you’ve learned into practice, put time and effort into the mental and emotional health of your patients. These aspects of health are pivotal in driving healing and recovery.

Mental Health

Mental health needs greatly vary between patients. As a healthcare practitioner, your responsibility lies with not only administering care but also paying close attention to patients to determine any changes in mental state, identifying any triggers for increased mental agitation, and ensuring that patients are being treated adequately. If a mental health patient, for instance, grows increasingly agitated at a certain time of day, part of your job is to seek out any potential causes and rectify the situation.

Performing adequately in this area of medicine requires some basic knowledge of the mental health field. While your expertise will be primarily medical in nature rather than psychological, this will be invaluable in properly assisting patients and peers. To prepare for assisting mental health patients, conduct a basic review of common mental maladies and disorders, including their common causes, onsets, symptoms, and treatments. You are expected to be an informed source for patients and peers alike. Remember your limitations in this field as well. While you are a medical professional, you should not take the role of diagnostician upon yourself, nor should you answer in-depth questions and concerns regarding treatment and medication. These questions should be accepted and referred to the patient’s physician.

Emotional Health

Like mental health, emotional health is not typically marked by physical indicators. Ensuring patients’ emotional health requires regular observation and some amount of intuition regarding behaviors and emotions. Without careful observation, a patient’s emotional needs may not be met. Hospital stays can be frightening for anyone and particularly difficult in situations requiring extensive treatment or in cases without clear answers or causes. As a CNA, your primary purpose is to assist patients and physicians—part of this is caring for your patient’s emotional well-being and acting as a source of support and strength during a difficult time.

While you are not expected to step into the role of nurturer, friend, or family member with your patients, you should maintain some bedside manner and treat patients with kindness, respect and, perhaps above all, compassion. Offer support or encouragement when it is sought after, or consolation when it is requested. Many patients will be alone when bad news is delivered, or will not yet have relatives in the room when a positive prognosis is offered. Both circumstances require some amount of emotional support or emotional commiseration. This may be as simple as smiling and offering a word of congratulations when good news is delivered, or offering your condolences or expressing sorry when bad news is given.

All patients require a degree of support and assistance in all areas, including mental, emotional, physical, and, in some cases, spiritual. No one area should be ignored in order to provide superlative customer care and fulfill your role as a CNA.