Question: I just finished my CNA course and have started my first job. Sometimes it seems like everything I learned at school is wrong. The experienced CNAs clearly think I have no idea what I am doing… Should I forget everything I know from CNA school and start from scratch?

Answer: It’s not that your course taught you incorrect information. It’s just that when dealing with patients you can’t always go by the book. For instance, when you ask a patient if he wants to take a shower, he might say yes. But he might say no for a week straight. In that case, you have to put aside the rule book and think of creative ways to convince him to take a shower. One way to do this is by asking whether he wants his shower now or in an hour.

Another thing to remember is that each facility has a slightly different way of working. Spend the first few weeks of your job absorbing the vibe and seeing how things are done. Find the experienced CNAs who would rather teach than criticize and learn from them.

Tips from experienced CNAs

We’ve compiled some tips from experienced CNAs which are relevant no matter where you work. Use these as a guideline and you’ll soon be the one new CNAs look up to.

  • There’s no such thing as “that’s not my patient.” If a patient needs help, go over to assist, even if he isn’t on your patient list.
  • When YOU need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it.
  • Listen to criticism but use common sense – if it seems wrong, ask someone in charge.
  • Shortcuts and time savers are great, but only if they don’t break state regulations.
  • When you have a smile on your face, patients will love you and staff will respect you.
  • Above all, make sure to treat patients the way you would want your parents to be treated if they were in a facility.

The real world can be a bit different from what you learned in CNA school but the same principles apply. It’s just a matter of tweaking what you learned to fit your patient’s needs and to fit in to the facility you work at.