The healthcare team is composed of several types of professionals, each with his or her own expertise. Regardless of role, each member of the team works together to come up with and implement a comprehensive care plan that will best serve the resident’s medical, nursing, emotional, psychosocial, and functional needs.
As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), you must know the role of each member of the team. Be informed of your specific roles and responsibilities and know who to communicate with if any sort of problem with the patient arises. Other healthcare team members include, but are not limited to, the physician who is in charge of treating the illness, the nursing staff (including the licensed nurse, medical aides, and CNAs), the social worker who attends to the emotional and social needs of the patient and the patient’s family members, the chaplain or spiritual counselor, and the physical therapist. The setup and size of the team depends on the type of the healthcare system, which could be a hospital, nursing home, hospice, or clinic. The type of healthcare system could be a factor in any possible additions to your list of duties.
Your role as CNA is different from the licensed nurse in several important ways, but this does not mean that it is not important. You cannot dispense medication, handle IVs, or perform official patient assessments. But you may spend the most amount of “hands-on” time with the patient, so it is not uncommon for you to notice changes in the patient’s condition or demeanor before other members of the healthcare team do. You are also responsible for providing direct care, ensuring the patient’s comfort, safety, and welfare, and helping the patient meet various health needs and goals.
Directly caring for the patient largely means attending to his or her Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). ADLs are everyday physical activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, tending to hygiene and toilet activities, positioning, transferring, ambulating, and even communicating if needed. As a CNA, you are responsible in ensuring that the patients feel at ease physically and emotionally by helping them maintain a positive, neat, and approachable image and an environment reminiscent of home. Any sign of patient discomfort must not be put off for later and must be attended to immediately. For example, if the patient call light goes on, you should respond immediately to avoid any serious problem or complication.
As a hands-on member of the healthcare team, you are largely responsible for the patient’s safety. Ascertain the resident’s safety by strictly following procedure, being vigilant at all times, and reporting any minor and major changes in the patient’s condition to the appropriate source. Avoid situations that may endanger the safety of the patient, or for which you may be charged with negligence. For example, in most facilities, identifying the resident prior to administering any type of individualized care is a standard procedure in order to avoid wrongful treatment, which could be dangerous or even fatal to the patient. Ensure the environment is kept clean and hygienic by practicing proper infection control. Any form of bodily fluid must be assumed contaminated. Because you are in charge of the patient’s daily activities and may come into contact with such fluids, wash your hands before and after care and use gloves during any procedure that involves known fluid exposure, such as cleaning a urinary drainage bag.
Be mindful of the health needs of the patients by reporting any and all changes to their appearance, attitude, disposition, behavior, mood, energy level, and degree of complaining. Use your senses for objective observation such as seeing bruises, hearing moans of pain, or smelling fouls odors, and listen for complaints of patient discomfort or unhappiness. Report any changes, complaints, or oddities observed to the nurse in charge. Regularly report the resident’s vitals, such as pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and respiration, as well as patient’s weight, food and liquid intake, and elimination habits. This information is very important for the other members of the healthcare team to do their job properly, so make sure to use the proper tools and measurements designated by the facility where you work. During treatments or procedures in which the licensed nurse will be heading the administration, the nursing aide may be called on to assist. Again, be aware of the legal limitations of the procedures you can perform (which you cannot refuse or neglect) or cannot perform (which you have a right to refuse).