A Day in The Life of a CNA

Have you always wondered what a day in the life of a CNA is like? Here’s a blog from a CNA working as a Patient Care Technician (author unknown) that we are thrilled to share with you to give you a little insight.

I’m laying on a tall bed, my head tilted to the side with a clear view of a white sandy beach, seagulls are chirping and I can smell the fresh salty ocean air. My muscles are relaxed and I feel at utter bliss. As I go to get up to head out in my next adventure, I hear a loud BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ. I jolt up off the bed only to realize that my beach adventure was just a dream. I look over at my phone, it’s 4:45, time to get up and ready for work. 

I stare at my phone, consider putting it back down, but instead I kick off my sheets and head downstairs. The moment my feet hit the bottom stair, I am greeted by a great dane excited to see it’s first human for the morning. On goes the coffee, I grab a yogurt out of the fridge and back upstairs I go.

It’s time for my morning shower, makeup and all the other fun things girls have to get up early for. On go my scrubs, badge, and into my pockets I place pens, paper, surgical tape and my scissors. 

6AM

It’s now 6:15 and time to head out the door to work. Hopefully, there’s no traffic so I can stop by the cafeteria before I have to clock in. I park in the lot, realize I once again didn’t make my lunch, and start to wonder if there are any leftovers, what the cafeteria food will be like today, or if I’ll get a true lunch and could make it over to Wahoos.

Rita stops me in the lot, hey, haven’t seen you in forever, they keep putting us on different days! Being the introvert I am, I respond, “I know right” and keep walking. Now realizing years later how my shyness can come off as being rude. 

It’s 6:55, no time for a snack, so I stand by the clock waiting for it to turn 6:56 so I can clock in and see what the board looks like. High census? Low census? Will I be transferred to another unit? Nope, it’s a full day of 14 patients and it looks like most of them have high aquities. I should have had a bigger breakfast. 

It’s shift change, I get my assignments and head off to find the PCT who worked nights to give me report so I can quickly take everyone’s vitals, get them up, dressed, teeth brushed, and restrooms used before it’s time to pass out breakfast to out patients.

I get to three patients before my beeper starts going off. I wrap up and head off to their room. The patient is halfway off the bed and her call light is hanging on the ground and she’s yelling “hurry I have to use the restroom, I’m not going to make it”. I rush over, help her out of bed, onto her wheelchair, and into the restroom. Okay, I’m here might as well get her ready too. 

Breakfast Time

It’s 9:00, breakfast is about to be delivered and I just finished all my vital entries and notes on the patients. Almost all my patients are ready for their day with a few baths that will be done later this afternoon. I’d say it’s a good start so far.

The cart arrives and it’s time to pass out their meals, double-checking that everything is right and that no one is getting something they shouldn’t per the report I got in the am. Ok, we’re good to go.

Time to pass out the final try for room 201, she needs assistance due to parkinsons. It’s never fun having to deliver the last meal to the patients who can’t enjoy it themselves, not because it’s a pain, but because it always means it’s the coldest by the time it gets to them.

As if their life isn’t hard enough, they have to be the last ones served. I try my best to tell stories to keep them entertained and so they don’t feel rushed or less human. Too often PCT’s rush their patients because they have deadlines to meet, not me. 

Vitals and Morning Baths

It’s now 11 am. I finished my first bath for the day and it’s time again for virals and almost time for lunch. I’ve answered several call lights, managed to stop a patient from falling, and assisted in a code blue. Getting 14 patient’s vitals never works out as planned. You never know what you’re walking into when you go into a patient’s room.

Most often they are lonely and need to talk, have been sitting there needing to use the restroom but didn’t want to use their call light, or they are in pain and need a nurse. You’re never just there for vitals. Noon is here before I know it and it’s time to circle around and do what I did this morning. Once I finish, It’s time for my lunch. 

Lunch Break

Throughout the day I was able to stop into the break room for a quick bite out of the doughnuts that were brought by the ambulance reps, all cut up and picked apart. We all “TRY” to be on diets, but how can you say no when it’s so easy to stop in and grab a really quick bite in-between call lights going off? I wonder if anyone else brought anything by… I walk over. Nope, just an empty pink box and leftover napkins. 

It’s 2:15, I clock out and begin to walk across the street. There’s something about a kid’s burrito that I just can’t get enough of when I work 1,000 miles a minute and have to be on my toes. It’s not a relaxing massage in the sand, but I’ll take my 45 minutes of bliss. 

Final Hours

I walk back, scan my card again to clock back in, and back to the unit I go. I walk into the nurse’s station to see that three of my patients are being discharged (which means I need to get them packed up and all ready to go) and one that’s about to be transferred in.

Time to get the room ready. I still need to do two more baths before the end of my shift, rotate the patient in 209, clean Mr. More in 214, and make sure everything is ready for shift change. Did I mention we did another round of vitals at 3pm (or 14:00 as we see it)? 

I catch up on my charting, finalize all the above including the discharges and patient transfers and wonder to myself, how did 12 hours just go by? Also, where did the last five hours go, because woah, that was a whir-win. 

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About the author

Ashley Carty

Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.

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