CNAs- We’re awesome and we know it

I have one looks just like it.

I’m going to write about CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) Why? I am one. I don’t have any pictures of myself in my scrubs or any nurse assistant equipment, so I found some pictures of other awesome CNAs.

We're awesome and we know it.

Ok, I’m a CNA and proud to be one, and the work I’ve done in my CNA career has been life-changing and phenomenal. Some of you may ask, What is a CNA? Or perhaps, What does a CNA do? Simple. We do everything nurses USED to do. We take care of the patients/residents in a way nurses used to have time for, but are now so bogged down with paperwork they can no longer afford the time it takes. Then we take over.

There are a million and one misconceptions concerning CNAs that I would love to clear up. Then I want to tell you a couple stories.

Misconception #1. We only work with the elderly

Not true. If you’ve ever been to a hospital and had somebody bring you towels, change your sheets, dress you, bathe you, feed you, bring in your food and drinks, interrogate you on how much you’ve peed, emptied your urinal and/or bed pan, listened to your needs, answered questions, wiped your ass, or came up with some brilliant and complicated plan to keep your IV out of the water while you bathe- You’ve just met a CNA.

Misconception #2. We don’t do any of the “real” work

I’d laugh, but that would be rude. People assume since we’re Certified and don’t have a License or spent four years in school means we don’t do any actual healthcare work. Let me clear something up: We’re trained to do the work we do, we’ve been through school, we’re state board certified in the same system of which nurses and doctors are licensed through and we’re recognized as healthcare professionals nation wide. Chances are, we’ve been trained in more variations of patient care than nurses are, we have more experience with patient needs and necessities, and we’re your best advocates for getting your needs met. We work tirelessly for you, for your health, and we do it with not just the professional standards required of us to keep our certifications: But with care for your well-being. We don’t care for your personal and medical needs, wipe asses and clean soiled sheets and deal with some of the hardest aspects of healthcare for the fun of it. We want you to be safe and clean, and we have the professional training in which to do it properly, period.

Misconception #3. We’re CNAs because we couldn’t cut it as nurses

Wrong again. We’re CNAs for the same reason a few decades ago nurses didn’t want to become doctors: Because we want to deal with the patients, not the paperwork. I’ve known plenty of career CNAs who do it for the cause, for the patient, and because they love to take care of others, despite the horrible pay, worse hours and consistent back stabbing and criticism from nurses and doctors.

Misconception #4. We’re just glorified housekeepers, or babysitters

I like to consider us as professional multi-taskers. Consider this: Anyone who has ever had to prevent an Alzheimer’s inflicted resident from flushing their pull-up down the toilet, slipping on their urine all over the floor or putting their pull up on their head or sticking silverware where the sun don’t shine, at the same time they’re changing the attend (ahem, “diaper”) on a full grown 250 pound adult male (I weigh about 109 pounds) and change an entire set of sheets and blankets without having the ability to remove the patient from the bed first, then answer six call-lights at once, while taking vitals, passing medication, taking temperatures, charting, cleaning, dressing and bathing residents can hardly be considered a “glorified babysitter” or “lazy” (Which is what that term essentially boils down to) We WORK for our money, and we work HARD.

Misconception #5. We’re CNAs because we don’t want to do the “dirty” work

Don’t read this if you’re squeamish. I’ve been pissed in the eye. I’ve gotten fecal matter rubbed in my face and hair and mouth. I’ve been thrown up on multiple times, including head-to-toe in foul smelling green bile and chunks of last night’s dinner. I’ve been pissed on, shit on, puked on, snotted on, spit on, bled on and have stepped in everything from  mucus to come (which I’ve also had smeared on me, long story.) I’ve waded through literal puddles of blood to reach a resident who had fallen. I’ve been shat on with a spray of diarrhea as an unfortunate result of being on the wrong end of a sick resident. I’ve been unwantedly kissed, licked, bitten, scratched, dragged, hit, yanked on, thrown around and kicked. I’ve changed soiled sheets that were so soiled they had to be discarded. I’ve cleaned up every bodily fluid known to man, including colostomy bags exploding on me of which hold fluids that no one was intended to see or smell. I’ve had catheter bags explode on the front of my shirt, I’ve cleaned up many dead bodies, – ok so I could go on but I think you get the point. If I wanted to keep my hands clean, I would have worked in a meat factory.

Misconception #6. Being a CNA is easy

I think you’re getting the idea by now how untrue that is. I’ve worked 12 and 15 hour shifts, weeks in a row, with pay too low to live on decently, taking no breaks in conditions that should require hazard pay. I’ve exposed myself to diseases and illnesses and suffered and worked through flus, colds, and other contagious short-term illnesses many a time just to care for those too sick to care for themselves. I’ve been involved in life-and-death emergency situations in which call for the quickest decisions to save lives. I put my life at risk to care for these people, willingly, and that is no exaggeration.

So that all being said, in a small list of many many misconceptions, I would like to admit that for as many “disgusting” situations I’ve been in, I’ve been involved in just as many heartbreaking, and just as many funny ones as well. Being a CNA is enriching to the soul and the heart, and I’ve learned lessons in life that no other occupation or schooling could teach me.

Anyone who has ever found themselves in a situation when they were too sick to care for themselves and were cared for and nursed back to health by others- you know what us CNAs do. I’ve saved lives, I’ve nursed the sick, I’ve lived the heartbreak over and over that is watching the pain and suffering of others while doing my best to ease it. I’ve been a counselor to those with unbearable traumas they won’t speak to anyone else about, but feel comfortable enough talking to the little nurse in scrubs who is helping them live just a little longer. I’ve heard war stories, combat stories from the most vicious battles from the most decorated vets, I’ve heard trauma stories from nurses and doctors and army nurses and emergency personnel. I’ve heard stories of childhood diseases and poverty and illness and loss and pain, and I’ve held the hand of the Alzheimer’s inflicted dying old man who just wanted to see his daughter one last time. I’ve sat with the sick and elderly while they died. I’ve taken care of and nurtured the sickest babies, rocked them and gave them the love and nurturing the parents who abandoned them at the hospital never gave them. To the sick and confused, I’ve been a mother, a daughter, a friend, a companion, a long lost lover, a beloved cat, a loving aunt, a neighbor, a doctor, a nurse.  I’ve been called a guardian angel, sent from heaven to care for them. I doubt this is any sort of true, but to be given such gratitude from somebody who without you, would be dying alone, in misery and pain, without a soul to care for their lives or who they were as people (not just sick and/or dying)- Well, you get the idea.

So please, the next time you decide to put down a CNA, just remember the sacrifice that is our jobs, and realize that most of us do it because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to, and we do it for you because we care.



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10 responses to “CNAs- We’re awesome and we know it

  1. no matter what we are – be the best you can be, and be proud of it. if we can’t, then we shouldn’t be doing whatever it is we’re doing.

  2. Stacey,
    I love this, CNA’s and LPN’s really get a bad rap and dont get the recognition they deserve, I know this because my wife is currently wrapping up her nursing degree so I hear it from her all the time, also my real job I work in hospitals a lot and see it first hand.
    You are as much of a caregiver as a nurse or a doctor .
    So Kudos to you in your career and on kncoking this post out of the park

    • Thank you very much 🙂 I appreciate your comment for sure. I’m sorry your wife is having a hard time, too. I think it helps to realize that the work we do is for the patients, and it’s the patients that care and appreciate it, and that’s what matters most. Tell her congratulations on her nursing degree, and good luck 🙂

  3. Thank you for all your time and hard work . . . I feel the same way a lot of times as a public school teacher:)

    • I thank you, too. Your profession is just as noble, and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves either. Just think of how many lives you’ve changed in your career. We all have ‘that one teacher’ we remember (or more than one) from our childhoods. What you do makes a difference for them, a difference that will be remembered. Don’t let anyone discredit that, your work is important and valuable.

      • Stacey –

        My step-mother is a CNA, but she never quite told me all that she does, and I suppose I understand why she might leave out some details. I know you are not a baby-sitter for them, because I have an aunt to goes to the hospital to literally babysit – sits with the patient all night long just to make sure he or she doesn’t get out of bed if he/she is a falling risk.

        What dedication you have to helping people. I think that takes a very special kind of person and anytime I’ve been to hospitals, for the most part, I’ve only had really caring individuals. If it weren’t for you and those others…well, being a patient…for any reason…is just plain scary. It helps to have a person like you there.

      • Oh my gosh, thank you so much for your comment 🙂 It really made me smile and feel good about myself. I’m truly glad you’ve had good experiences with the people caring for you, I know how incredibly important it is because I’ve been a patient as well, often, for most my life. Probably where the passion to take care of others comes from. Just keep in mind one thing though, as far as your aunt goes. Her job isn’t just as a baby-sitter either, if she is there to help those who are fsll risks it is just as important as every other job there is. Did you know that after a person turns 85, their survival rating after falling is a generous 5%? It’s only about 35%-50% for 70 year olds. Much worse if their injuries require surgery. A fall can literally mean life or death. So even if she’s just sitting there, she is still potentially saving lives. Thank you so much for your wonderful comments 🙂 I wish all the luck to you!

  4. I didn’t know that fact, BUT, I certainly can believe it. Towards the end of her life, my grandmother kept having a lot of falls, outside the hospital setting. She was one day standing at the sink…turned to do something, and fell and hit something. She broke something (I can’t remember what, hip maybe?) and bruised up pretty badly.

    I spent a lot of time with her in her rehab stay. I would go around lunchtime and they would encourage all the patients to eat together…because for the elderly, loneliness is a sure detriment to healing.

    My aunt…sure, she wasn’t ‘just’ babysitting, but since she was there at night time, most of the patients were asleep. But some weren’t. Some she talked to, and she brought home funny stories…some patients confused her with their loved ones and she pretended to be them, because it seemed to give them comfort.

    She had to watch a prison inmate who had to go in for something. That was pretty frightening for her, because he was creepy and something about his eyes was just threatening. But…she was courageous with him. She did her best to engage him and help him…while keeping out of his reach.

    So no, not at all just babysitting…and she seems to enjoy it.

    Best wishes to you.

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