What are The Most Important CNA Skills?
First, what is the difference between a skill and a task, or between a skill and a trait? Although there is crossover between the terms, generally for a certified nursing assistant, a skill is an expertise that is learned or developed while trait is something inherent, and a task the is work to be performed.
Awareness and Observation
Two of the most important CNA skills are awareness and observation. Those two skills are ones that everyone possesses in some degree but which a CNA must develop to a high degree. With more frequent visits to the patient’s room, the CNA is an extension of the nurse’s presence. Observing the patient and his or her surroundings at each opportunity assists the nurse to assess the progress of the patient as well as any needs the patient might have for medical intervention. Certified nurse assistant will also observe and remove any potential hazards in the patient setting which could cause accidents.
Along with awareness is the certified nurse aide’s ability to think critically. Thought is a series of connections. The more connections one is able to make, the better thinker, decision-maker, and team player the CNA will be. Those connections come from “putting it all together,” making connections from what one knows about the patient from reports, from documentation, and from what one observes and taking appropriate action or communicating the necessary information.
Communication is what one does with the information he or she has observed. It may be in the form of written documentation, or it can be verbal communication. It is important that the certified nurse assistants report any unusual observations to the nurses at once. This can be anything from an increase or decrease in respirations to lack of urine output. The CNA is trained to know what is normal and what is not for each patient, and to report any significant deviations from that norm.
The ability to follow directions, protocols (established procedure) and to remain in one’s scope of practice is a given. Whether the CNA agrees with them or not, the protocols and scope of practice are there to protect the patient, the healthcare team and the facility from liability.
Another critical skill is timeliness, not only being on time to work, but also submitting reports and documentation in a timely manner to enable the smooth functioning of the unit. A part of timeliness is also knowing how to prioritize one’s tasks, and to train oneself to be calm in stressful situations. This ensures timeliness as the CNA does not waste time in inefficient working or in reacting inappropriately to certain situations.
The final skill is in a different realm, but equally important: minding one’s body mechanics in the performance of duty. Proper body mechanics is a skill the CNA learns in training and is critical to the proper handling of the patient, and to the CNA’s avoiding injury.
All of these skills are part of the CNA training, but they often take time and practice to hone.