National Nurses Assistant Week is a big deal in my calendar. It’s not because I’m a CNA, although I used to be one. It’s because I know that I could not do my job as an LPN if not for the CNAs who work with me.

I work in a nursing facility where many of the residents suffer from dementia or are otherwise unable to care for themselves. When I make my rounds, I smile to see that the patients have their hair brushed, have eaten a proper meal and are clean and content. Even if I don’t see a CNA nearby, I recognize his or her handiwork.

When I start talking to a patient and he is smiling and cheerful, I know before I ask that he just had a conversation with a CNA. I’ve often heard, “Larissa made my day!” or “Melinda likes my new sweater. Do you like it too?” There’s no question in my mind that these patients are happier and healthier because the CNAs have made time to interact with them, even if only for a few minutes.

More than once, I’ve been alerted to a problem with a patient’s health by a CNA who was paying attention. My friend Doreen once pointed out that an elderly woman had almost totally stopped eating, and it turned out that she was suffering quietly with severe stomach pain. And I’ll never forget that time that Jen noticed a new beauty mark on a patient’s back, and it turned out to be cancerous.

So yes, I love the CNAs I work with. And I try to show them my appreciation every day, but I also like to do something a little extra for them during National Nurses Assistant Week. One year, I wrote personalized cards to each CNA on my floor. The next year, I ordered pizza for all the CNAs working my shift. Once I made a big poster with the words Thank You CNAs! on it and got all the residents, nurses and doctors to sign it. Then I hung it up right over the nurses’ station.

I haven’t decided what I’m going to do this year (feel free to help me out by posting in the comments). What are you doing for CNA week?