You have probably defended your role as a nurse in conversation with friends at least once in your career. For the lay person, the nursing role may still be unclear. The image of a subservient woman with a clip board chasing a doctor every step of the way may come to mind. This image is long outdated. Nurses have had to fight for years for their rightful place in the medical team and be seen as the rightful and equal to the doctor. The same goes for the nursing assistant or CNA. He or she deserves equal respect and equal voice as they are just as vital as any other member of the patient’s team. The following are just a few reasons why a nursing assistant is so vital to the team.
Second Pair of Eyes
On our unit, the CNA and nurse sit down and read the patient history together in preparation for the shift. One of my first questions to my nursing assistant at the start of a shift is whether they have had this patient before. Do they know the patient’s history? They are my second pair of eyes. They may notice a change in patient color, an increased abdominal girth, or a subtle change in the patient’s blood pressure that warrants further investigation. Trust their instincts.
Second Pair of Ears
Having the nursing assistant on my team is my second pair of ears. Is my patient having more episodes than usual? In the NICU, more frequent episodes, i.e., increase in frequency of oxygen desaturation or apnea can be a quick indication that the patient is deteriorating. It is sometimes the nursing assistant that first notices. Listen to them.
The CNAs I have the pleasure to work with are often two steps ahead of me in knowing what I need, especially in an emergency. My last shift consisted of a rapidly deteriorating patient toward the end of a night shift. As I began CPR, one CNA called for help while the other assisted me. It was textbook teamwork. Allow them to do their job so you can effectively do yours.
Years of Experience
Your nursing assistant may have years of experience on you. Set your ego aside and listen to what they are telling you. You might just learn something. They have their own set of skills and tricks of the trade. Be open.
I am so grateful for the amazing group of CNAs I work with. They are not only coworkers, they are friends. Forget the hierarchy. Forget the ego. Forgot the us verses them, it is we. If you have not already today, please thank your nursing assistant. Remind them that you would not be able to do your job without them.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.