Job Duties of A Certified Nursing Assistant

close up photo of a stethoscope

What Will My Duties Be As a Certified Nursing Assistant?

As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), your primary role is to provide basic care to patients and assist them with activities of daily living. Your specific duties may vary depending on the healthcare setting you work in, such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or private homes. Typical duties of a CNA include:

Assisting patients with bathing, grooming, dressing, and using the toilet. This may involve helping patients with mobility issues and providing support during these activities.

Vital signs monitoring

Regularly checking and recording patients’ vital signs, such as temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate. Reporting any significant changes to the nursing staff.

Feeding and hydration

Helping patients with eating and drinking, which can include preparing meals, assisting with feeding, and ensuring they stay hydrated.

Mobility assistance

Helping patients move in bed, transfer from bed to chair, or walk, as needed. This may involve using proper body mechanics and assistive devices, such as gait belts or mechanical lifts.

Positioning and turning

Regularly repositioning bedridden patients to prevent bedsores and maintain comfort. This may involve turning and positioning patients using pillows or other supportive devices.

Infection control

Adhering to proper infection control procedures, such as handwashing and using personal protective equipment, to prevent the spread of infection.

Patient communication and comfort

Actively listening to patients’ concerns and needs, providing emotional support, and ensuring their comfort. Reporting any concerns to the nursing staff.

Assisting with medical procedures

Supporting nursing staff by assisting with medical procedures or treatments, such as wound care, administering medication, or collecting specimens for laboratory testing.

Your specific duties as a CNA may vary depending on the healthcare setting and the individual needs of the patients you care for. As a CNA, you will work under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and follow their guidance in providing patient care.

crop doctor writing prescription on paper

What is Involved in Nursing Assistant Duties?

Personal Care

Personal care is a significant aspect of a Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) duties. As a CNA, you will be responsible for assisting patients with activities of daily living (ADLs) and maintaining their hygiene and comfort. Personal care tasks typically include:

  1. Bathing: Helping patients with bathing or showering, which can involve providing bed baths for bedridden patients or assisting ambulatory patients in the shower or tub. You may also need to wash patients’ hair and provide other grooming services as needed.
  2. Oral hygiene: Assisting patients with brushing their teeth or dentures, flossing, and using mouthwash to maintain oral health.
  3. Dressing: Helping patients get dressed and undressed, ensuring they wear clean and appropriate clothing. This may involve selecting clothes, putting on and taking off clothes, and fastening buttons or zippers.
  4. Toileting: Assisting patients with using the toilet or bedpan, which may involve helping them move to and from the bathroom, providing support while they are seated, and helping them clean up afterward. You may also be responsible for changing adult diapers or incontinence pads and maintaining the patient’s dignity throughout the process.
  5. Grooming: Helping patients with grooming tasks, such as shaving, trimming nails, and combing hair. Ensuring patients are well-groomed helps maintain their dignity, self-esteem, and overall well-being.
  6. Skin care: Regularly assessing patients’ skin for signs of irritation, redness, or infection and applying moisturizers, creams, or ointments as needed. This helps prevent skin breakdown and maintain the patient’s overall health.
  7. Range of motion exercises: Assisting patients with performing passive or active range of motion exercises to maintain or improve their mobility, prevent stiffness, and promote circulation.
  8. Transfers and ambulation: Helping patients transfer from bed to chair, wheelchair, or other locations and assisting them with walking, as needed. This may involve using proper body mechanics, gait belts, or mechanical lifts to ensure safety and prevent injuries.

Personal care tasks are essential for maintaining patients’ hygiene, comfort, and dignity. By providing compassionate and attentive personal care, CNAs play a crucial role in improving patients’ overall well-being and quality of life. Always ensure that you respect the patient’s privacy, preferences, and cultural practices while providing personal care.

medical stethoscope placed on white background

Vital Signs Monitoring

Vital signs monitoring is a crucial aspect of a Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) responsibilities. Vital signs are essential indicators of a patient’s overall health and well-being. As a CNA, you will be responsible for regularly checking and recording patients’ vital signs to help the nursing staff assess the patient’s condition and identify any potential health issues. The primary vital signs you will monitor include:


Measuring a patient’s body temperature to detect fever, infection, or other conditions that may affect their health. Temperature can be measured using various methods, such as oral, axillary (under the armpit), tympanic (ear), or temporal (forehead) thermometers.

Blood Pressure

Assessing the force of blood against the arterial walls as the heart pumps. Blood pressure is typically measured using a sphygmomanometer and stethoscope, and it is recorded as two numbers: systolic pressure (the higher number) and diastolic pressure (the lower number).


Evaluating the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat by counting the number of beats per minute. Pulse can be measured manually by palpating a peripheral artery (such as the radial or carotid artery) or by using an electronic pulse oximeter that also measures oxygen saturation.

Respiratory Rate

Counting the number of breaths a patient takes per minute, which can help detect respiratory issues or distress. Respiratory rate is measured by observing the patient’s chest rise and fall while they are at rest and undisturbed.

Oxygen saturation (SpO2)

Measuring the percentage of oxygen-bound hemoglobin in the blood, which indicates how well the patient’s body is oxygenated. Oxygen saturation is typically measured using a pulse oximeter, a non-invasive device that is placed on the patient’s fingertip or earlobe.

As a CNA, you will be responsible for accurately recording and reporting vital signs to the nursing staff. If you notice any significant changes or abnormalities in a patient’s vital signs, it’s essential to promptly inform the supervising nurse or healthcare professional. Timely monitoring and reporting of vital signs can help detect potential health issues early and contribute to better patient outcomes.

Feeding and Hydration

Feeding and hydration are essential aspects of a Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA) responsibilities. As a CNA, you will be tasked with ensuring patients receive proper nutrition and hydration, which are critical for their overall health, well-being, and recovery. The specific duties related to feeding and hydration may include:

Meal Preparation

Preparing meals for patients according to their specific dietary needs, restrictions, and preferences. This may involve assembling meal trays, following special diet orders, and ensuring food is served at the appropriate temperature.

Assisting with feeding

Helping patients eat their meals, especially those who have difficulty feeding themselves due to mobility issues, weakness, or cognitive impairments. This may involve cutting food into smaller pieces, using adaptive utensils, or hand-feeding patients while monitoring their swallowing to prevent choking.

Monitoring food intake

Observing and documenting the amount of food patients consume, including noting any difficulties they may have while eating. Reporting any concerns or changes in eating habits to the supervising nurse or healthcare professional.

Encouraging Hydration

Ensuring patients stay properly hydrated by offering them water, juice, or other appropriate beverages throughout the day. Monitoring their fluid intake and output, and reporting any significant imbalances or concerns to the nursing staff.

Swallowing assessment and assistance

For patients with swallowing difficulties or at risk of aspiration, CNAs may need to follow specific guidelines provided by speech therapists or healthcare professionals. This can include assisting with feeding techniques, such as chin tuck or using thickened liquids, to ensure safe swallowing and prevent choking.

Tube feeding

In some cases, CNAs may be responsible for assisting patients who receive nutrition through a feeding tube, such as a nasogastric (NG) tube or a gastrostomy (G-tube). This can involve preparing and administering the prescribed formula, monitoring the patient for any complications, and ensuring the tube site remains clean and free from infection.

It’s essential for CNAs to maintain a compassionate and patient approach when assisting with feeding and hydration, as these tasks can be challenging for both the patient and the caregiver. Always respect the patient’s dignity, preferences, and cultural practices while providing care. By ensuring proper nutrition and hydration, CNAs play a vital role in promoting patients’ overall health and well-being.

Mobility Assistance

Mobility assistance is an essential responsibility of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in helping patients maintain or regain their ability to move safely and independently. CNAs play a critical role in providing support to patients with limited mobility due to age, illness, injury, or disability. As a CNA, your duties related to mobility assistance may include:

  1. Transfers: Assisting patients with moving between different positions or locations, such as from bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to toilet, or bed to a standing position. This may involve using proper body mechanics, gait belts, slide sheets, or mechanical lifts to ensure patient safety and prevent caregiver injury.
  2. Ambulation: Helping patients walk safely by providing physical support, monitoring their stability, and ensuring the environment is free from obstacles. This may include assisting patients with walking aids, such as walkers or canes, and providing guidance on proper technique.
  3. Range of motion exercises: Performing passive or active range of motion exercises to help patients maintain or improve their joint flexibility, muscle strength, and overall mobility. This may involve gently moving the patient’s limbs through their full range of motion or supporting them as they perform the exercises themselves.
  4. Turning and repositioning: Regularly turning and repositioning patients, particularly those with limited mobility, to prevent pressure ulcers, promote circulation, and maintain respiratory function.
  5. Fall prevention: Identifying patients at risk for falls and implementing fall prevention strategies, such as using nonslip footwear, ensuring adequate lighting, and removing trip hazards. Assisting patients with mobility tasks and encouraging them to use assistive devices or seek help when needed can also help prevent falls.
  6. Physical therapy support: Collaborating with physical therapists and other healthcare professionals to implement individualized exercise programs and mobility plans for patients. This may involve assisting with specific exercises or ensuring the patient follows prescribed activity guidelines.
  7. Education and encouragement: Teaching patients and their families about safe mobility techniques and providing encouragement and motivation to help patients maintain or regain their independence.
  8. Documenting and reporting: Observing and documenting patients’ mobility progress, as well as any changes or concerns, and reporting this information to the supervising nurse or healthcare professional.

By providing mobility assistance, CNAs play a vital role in promoting patient safety, independence, and overall well-being. It is essential for CNAs to follow their healthcare facility’s guidelines and policies, use proper body mechanics, and seek assistance from colleagues when needed to ensure both patient and caregiver safety during mobility tasks.

a dentist with a patient in a dental clinic

Positioning and Turning

Positioning and turning are essential responsibilities of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) when caring for patients, particularly those who have limited mobility or are bedridden. Proper positioning and regular turning help maintain patient comfort, prevent the development of pressure ulcers, promote circulation, and maintain respiratory function. As a CNA, you will be responsible for the following tasks related to positioning and turning:

  1. Proper body alignment: Ensuring that patients maintain proper body alignment while lying or sitting to promote comfort, prevent injuries, and maintain musculoskeletal health. This may involve using pillows, foam wedges, or rolled towels to support the patient’s limbs and spine.
  2. Regular turning: Turning and repositioning patients, typically every two hours, to prevent the development of pressure ulcers (also known as bedsores) and promote circulation. Turning can involve moving the patient from their back to one side, then to the other side, or to a semi-prone position.
  3. Pressure relief: Regularly assessing patients for signs of pressure ulcers and taking steps to relieve pressure on vulnerable areas, such as the heels, hips, elbows, and sacrum. This may involve using pressure-relief devices, such as foam cushions or air mattresses, or performing range-of-motion exercises to maintain skin integrity and prevent stiffness.
  4. Assisting with mobility: Helping patients move in and out of bed or change positions while maintaining proper body mechanics to ensure patient safety and prevent caregiver injury. This may involve using gait belts, slide sheets, or mechanical lifts to assist with transfers and repositioning.
  5. Fowlers and Semi-Fowler’s positions: Adjusting the patient’s bed to an appropriate angle when they need to be in an upright position, such as during mealtimes or to improve respiratory function. Fowlers position typically involves elevating the head of the bed to an angle of 45 to 60 degrees, while Semi-Fowler’s position is at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees.
  6. Logrolling: Using a specific technique called logrolling for patients with spinal cord injuries or who have undergone spinal surgery. Logrolling involves turning the patient’s entire body as a single unit to maintain the alignment of the spine while repositioning.

Always follow your healthcare facility’s guidelines and policies for positioning and turning patients. It is crucial to use proper body mechanics and seek assistance from a colleague when needed to ensure both patient and caregiver safety. By regularly repositioning and turning patients, CNAs play a vital role in maintaining patient comfort, preventing complications, and promoting overall well-being.

Infection Control

Infection control is a critical responsibility of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) to protect both patients and healthcare workers from the spread of infectious diseases. CNAs play a vital role in maintaining a safe and healthy environment by following strict infection control protocols and guidelines. Some essential aspects of infection control for CNAs include:

Hand Hygiene

Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after providing patient care, after contact with bodily fluids, and after touching potentially contaminated surfaces. Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infections.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Using appropriate PPE, such as gloves, gowns, masks, and face shields, to protect yourself and patients from potential exposure to infectious agents. Always follow your facility’s guidelines for when and how to use PPE correctly.

Proper disposal of contaminated materials

Safely disposing of contaminated materials, such as used gloves, dressings, and sharps, in designated containers to prevent the spread of infection.

Environmental cleaning and disinfection

Regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and patient care areas using appropriate disinfectants and cleaning procedures. This includes bed rails, bedside tables, doorknobs, and other frequently touched surfaces.

Sterilization of equipment

Ensuring that reusable medical equipment, such as thermometers or blood pressure cuffs, is properly cleaned, disinfected, or sterilized between uses to prevent cross-contamination.

Safe handling of bodily fluids

Following standard precautions when handling bodily fluids, such as blood, urine, or feces, to minimize the risk of exposure to infectious agents.

Isolation precautions

Adhering to isolation precautions for patients with known or suspected infections, such as contact, droplet, or airborne precautions, to prevent the spread of infection to other patients or healthcare workers.

Reporting signs of infection

Promptly reporting any signs of infection or potential outbreaks to the supervising nurse or infection control personnel.

Patient and family education

Educating patients and their families about proper hygiene practices, such as handwashing, cough etiquette, and wound care, to prevent the spread of infections during their stay and after discharge.

By following infection control guidelines and practicing proper hygiene, CNAs play a crucial role in maintaining a safe healthcare environment and preventing the spread of infections. This not only protects patients but also contributes to the well-being of healthcare workers and the overall community.

Patient communication and comfort

Patient communication and comfort are crucial aspects of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) role, as they significantly impact the overall patient experience and contribute to patient well-being. CNAs often spend more time with patients than any other healthcare professionals, making effective communication and providing comfort essential to their job. Here are some essential aspects of patient communication and comfort for CNAs:

Active listening

Attentively listening to patients’ concerns, questions, and feelings, and acknowledging their emotions can help build rapport and trust. It’s essential to be patient, empathetic, and nonjudgmental while listening to patients’ needs.

Clear communication

Speaking clearly and using easy-to-understand language can help patients feel more informed and comfortable with their care. It’s crucial to avoid using medical jargon and to explain procedures or instructions in a simple, concise manner.

Nonverbal communication

CNAs should be aware of their body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice while interacting with patients, as these can significantly impact how the message is perceived. Maintaining eye contact, using a gentle tone, and displaying a caring demeanor can help put patients at ease.

Cultural sensitivity

Recognizing and respecting the diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs of patients is essential in providing compassionate care. CNAs should be open to learning about different cultural practices and accommodating them when possible.

Emotional support

Providing emotional support and reassurance to patients during challenging times is a vital aspect of a CNA’s role. Offering a comforting presence, showing empathy, and encouraging patients to express their feelings can help them cope with their situation.

Privacy and dignity

Respecting patients’ privacy and dignity by knocking before entering their room, covering them during personal care activities, and discussing sensitive topics discreetly can help maintain their sense of self-worth and autonomy.

Pain management

CNAs should be attentive to patients’ pain levels and promptly report any concerns to the supervising nurse. They may also help implement non-pharmacological pain management techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxation, or distraction.

Personal care

Providing personal care, such as bathing, grooming, and toileting, in a gentle and respectful manner can help patients feel comfortable and maintain their self-esteem.

Patient education

CNAs can help patients better understand their condition and care plan by providing basic education and reinforcing information provided by other healthcare professionals.

Family involvement

Involving family members in the patient’s care, as appropriate, and keeping them informed about the patient’s progress can help foster a supportive environment and enhance patient comfort.

By focusing on patient communication and comfort, CNAs can contribute to a positive patient experience and play an essential role in promoting patient well-being and satisfaction.

photo of woman wearing protective goggles and mask

Assisting with medical procedures

As a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), you may be required to assist with various medical procedures under the supervision of a Registered Nurse (RN) or other healthcare professionals. While the specific tasks and level of involvement may vary depending on the facility and state regulations, some common medical procedures CNAs may assist with include:

Wound care

Assisting with cleaning and dressing wounds, monitoring the healing process, and reporting any signs of infection or complications to the supervising nurse.

Specimen collection

Helping with the collection of various specimens, such as urine, stool, or sputum samples, for diagnostic testing. This may involve providing patients with the necessary supplies, instructing them on proper collection techniques, and labeling and transporting the specimens to the lab.

Catheter care

Assisting with the insertion, removal, or maintenance of urinary catheters, ensuring that proper hygiene and infection control measures are followed to minimize the risk of infection.

Oxygen therapy

Helping with the administration of oxygen therapy, which may involve setting up oxygen equipment, monitoring oxygen levels, and ensuring that the patient is comfortable and using the equipment correctly.

Vital signs monitoring

Regularly measuring and documenting patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and temperature, and reporting any abnormal findings or trends to the supervising nurse.

Glucose monitoring

Assisting with blood glucose monitoring for diabetic patients by performing fingerstick blood tests and recording the results. CNAs may also help patients with their insulin injections or other diabetes management tasks as directed by the supervising nurse.

Medication administration

In some states, CNAs who have completed additional training as Certified Medication Assistants (CMAs) may be allowed to administer certain medications under the supervision of a nurse. This may involve distributing oral medications, applying topical treatments, or administering eye drops, among other tasks.

Physical therapy exercises

Collaborating with physical therapists or occupational therapists to help patients perform prescribed exercises, stretches, or mobility activities to improve their strength, flexibility, and overall function.

Respiratory treatments

Assisting with respiratory treatments, such as nebulizer treatments or inhalers, ensuring that patients understand how to use the equipment correctly and monitoring their response to the therapy.


Accurately documenting patient care activities, observations, and any changes in the patient’s condition in the patient’s medical record, following facility guidelines and policies.

It’s essential for CNAs to be familiar with their state’s scope of practice regulations and the policies of their healthcare facility to ensure they are performing tasks within their allowed boundaries. By assisting with medical procedures, CNAs play a critical role in supporting the healthcare team and ensuring that patients receive high-quality care.

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