7 Practical Encouragements For the New CNA {part 1}

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today marks one year as a Certified Nursing Assistant, and in celebration, I'm sharing a two part series with practical encouragements for CNAs. :) 

It was four days into clinicals at a veterans’ facility. My mind was tired and groggy that morning on the bus as I pondered how close the semester evals were; I had a lot of practice to do in the lab, and I needed to review the infection control unit. I looked out the window at the deep snow. We were about ten minutes away; quickly, I checked my ID and scrubs to ensure I had everything I needed for the day.

How am I going to do all this on my own someday?

The thought of having to give full care to multiple individuals by myself in the future seemed quite baffling. During a regular morning of clinicals, two or three student CNAs would be assigned to one resident, and we would have over an hour to complete a bed bath, brief change, dressing, sheet change, oral care, shaving, transferring, and ambulating the individual. I couldn’t imagine how I could do all that by myself on one shift, not to mention the fact that there would probably be eight to twenty people under my care.

What would I do about call lights? What if I get assigned four showers? What if my resident faints? How do you handle inappropriate patients? What if the facility I work for doesn’t train me well?

My mind was filled with questions. Seeing healthcare up close and personal was quite different than lab, textbook, and lecture learning. They had given me a great knowledge base, but I found it difficult to practically take charge over someone else’s personal health when I was given the assignment. If I’m responsible for keeping them healthy as much as possible, how do I handle when they reject care? If they won’t let me brush their teeth, then their oral health will get worse…

I have to follow HIPPA, OBRA, resident rights, infection control, the facility's policies, and my charge nurse’s instructions. How do you keep all those plates spinning at once?

It seemed impossible! As the bus hit a bump, I opened my clinical folder and looked over my previous clinical write ups. Underneath was my nursing assistant textbook with a bunch of index cards. I flipped through them, half distracted as I thought about how experienced aids seemed to handle everything they were assigned so well. How to get there was the question on my mind.

Now that I have been a licensed CNA for one year, and since these clinical memories are almost a year and a half old, I thought it would be a great time to address some of those new CNA jitters.

7 Practical Encouragements For The New CNA

1. Remember the purpose of your work
As a CNA, you will not lose your motivation to do well because of your job, but because you forget why you do your job.

Think to when you first decided to sign up for your CNA class; what sparked your interest? If you’ve been through clinicals or internship, or have had some other kind of first-hand experience in healthcare, then you have an advantage.

When you begin studying to be a nurse assistant, it’s easy to romanticize the profession. You picture smiling patients that are oh-so-grateful for everything and love having you as their aid. You think of getting to sit back with “the cool people” at the nurses' station, and laughing at a sweet moment of the shift. You see yourself performing CPR to rescue a patient who stopped breathing, only for them to sit right up and cough--a sure sign of life--and leave knowing you made a serious impact on that individual, because they couldn’t have lived through that morning without you.

Having experienced a veteran’s home, the acute neuro floor in a hospital, and an assisted living facility as a nursing assistant, I can tell you for sure that these moments do happen sometimes! However, when you go into work with the perspective that you have to do some great big life saving performance in order for your work to be valuable, the “normal” moments of being a CNA being to drag and feel like they are not worthwhile.

But if you go into any job, internship, or situation with the heart to serve others and share Jesus’ love with them, regardless of the circumstances, you will be equipped to pour out well in any healthcare setting.

Remember that it’s not about being a hero; each task, even just pulling open the blinds, is all to be done as worship to the King of kings.

A.W. Tozer once said:

 “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.”

He continues:

“Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act. All he does is good and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For such a man, living itself will be a priestly ministration. As he performs his never-so-simple task, he will hear the voice of the seraphim saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory’ (Isaiah 6:3).” [1]

All our work is sacred. It is important. Each moment we give care to someone is not simply to keep them alive and well (it is), but our true purpose in serving others is to worship Jesus. This perspective can change everything about your job and life! Instead of looking at your care plans first thing in the morning and feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work the day will require, you can be entirely thrilled for an opportunity to worship Him! See your every assignment as a chance to magnify Jesus.

2. Know that you answer to the Great Physician before anyone else

Sometimes we work under doctors who are rude to us or ignore us, but the Great Physician is always with us. Jesus is the healer; it’s His nature to bring about fullness and fruitfulness where there has previously been brokenness and disease. Although He does not always physically heal others, we know that if our patient knows Jesus, then they have everything they need for life and godliness.

Let your soul’s first turn be to Him. When your patient is unstable while you’re transferring them, be quick to ask for help from other healthcare workers, if you need it, but let the first cry of your heart be to your only Solid Rock. (Of course, in moments of crisis, outwardly it probably looks like we first call the nurse [which is a very good idea when problems arise!], but we know Jesus is the one who truly delivers us. Let your heart turn to Him for help).

Who would better know how to care for a physically or mentally ill individual than the One who created the body? Our God invented fingertips, red blood cells, your tongue, the arterioles and venules, and brain waves. He is the One who told our hearts to start beating just five weeks after conception and has sustained it through this day. Remember this truth when you’re at a loss for how to give care to your resident or patient. Jesus knows.

The highest authority in your life is Jesus. Here’s where this comes to play in healthcare: if one of your patients is pursuing medically assisted suicide or the hospital you work at performs abortions, remember what matters most. It’s not getting an award for working for thirty years at the same facility. It’s not blindly agreeing with a doctor of nurse above you in leadership if they instruct you to do something that defies the Word.

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality // Desmond Tutu

 When it comes time for you to pursue employment, I encourage you to explore the hard questions. Does this hospital ever, for any reason, perform abortions? Even on another floor? Does this facility have a policy regarding medically assisted suicide? (At the moment, it’s illegal in MI, but it’s gaining approval and popularity around the US, so be watchful).

In short, even in the secular world we live in, we must have conviction. Honor and love those who are above you in leadership, while knowing that you will answer to Jesus for what you’ve done in your work, not the MDs and RNs. As long as what they ask you to do is ok, follow their instructions to the best of your ability and treat them as individuals who are made in the image of God. Remember how Jesus longs for them to come to know Him; no one is beyond His ability to redeem. Keep in mind that you are showing them, and everyone else around, what it looks like to live out the Gospel.

Whenever someone recovers, you know the One behind it. Worship Him for His faithfulness to heal, and His sovereignty to allow some to pass even when we don’t understand why.

3. Don’t be overwhelmed

When I got my first job in healthcare, I was completely over the moon! My first morning of learning under one of my soon-to-be coworkers, I went out and bought new scrubs just for the occasion. Even though I had already experienced clinicals and an internship, I felt a bit overwhelmed as I observed. Watching the CNA who I was shadowing had me back to the day on the bus. How in the world will I be able to do all this alone?

 It’s easy to feel you are in over your head when you are new to healthcare, but realize that every nursing assistant you work with has been there. At first, when I finished training, I was not as productive as I wanted to be. I was supposed to be able to leave by 10:00 each evening, but sometimes I would leave as late as 11:30. Since I was also balancing classes and two other part time jobs, the inconsistent schedule was not working very well for me. I was getting four hours or less of sleep each night, which made me feel more pressure at work.

I encourage you not to do what I did in my first job. Because I was saving up for missions school I had to work three jobs and didn’t have another option, but, if you are able, I strongly encourage you to scale back your schedule when you first start working in healthcare. It will greatly reduce the stress and restlessness you might otherwise experience if you are taking on too much.

Maybe you do have a balanced schedule and get enough sleep, but still feel overwhelmed in your job. Ask yourself a few questions: why am I working here? What is the purpose of my job? (See #1). What is stressing me out? Why do I feel overwhelmed?

Sometimes, in long term care facilities like nursing homes, assisted living, and veterans homes, you feel a lot of pressure. It can be very hard to work with slow individuals on a fast paced schedule. If you are having trouble with your residents or patients being upset with you for taking too long or not getting to their room quickly enough, try your best to evaluate your productivity. Am I moving as quickly as I can while also being thorough and making sure my patients are doing ok?

Another very important key is communication.When it takes you awhile to get to a call light, explain to your resident that you were assisting someone else and came as quickly as possible. Sometimes, for whatever reason, patients assume that you’re being lazy or ignoring them. Taking a brief moment to tell them why it was a bit of time for you to arrive can ease the situation (don’t forget to observe the HIPPA Privacy Rule while explaining); if your patient is still flustered, then sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, and quickly distract them by helping them with whatever they need assistance with.

Make sure you are also communicating with your charge nurse and fellow CNAs. If you truly have too much on your plate, be willing to ask for help. As time goes on at your new job, you will find out who to ask for help and who not to ask. Some people will act inconvenienced when you ask them to help you; be sensitive to their schedule and priorities, but also realize that healthcare is not a solo act; it’s teamwork! As you quicken your pace (trust me, you will get faster!) you will eventually be able to return the favor more often. When you have a free moment, ask your coworkers how you can help.

If you want to do well in healthcare, you absolutely must be a team player! It will be a key that helps you keep your head above the water.

Ultimately, remember that your security does not come from doing everything just-so in your job. Your security comes from Jesus Christ alone. You are complete in Him.

Curious about the next four points of encouragement? Join us Monday on the blog!

1 A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2006), 130-131.

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