7 Qualities that Define a Great Nurse Assistant

7 Qualities that Define a Great Nurse Assistant

Are you considering getting your feet wet first as Nursing Assistant before jumping into the medical field? Are you currently a CNA and looking to learn more about how you can increase your likeability and overall job satisfaction? These are the 7 qualities that define a great nurse assistant that you should know, practice, and always remember. 

Working as a nursing assistant is anything but glamorous. I remember when I was in High School, and I had just completed my CNA training. I was so proud of the fact I was moving forward in the medical field. One day I was sitting at an after-game dinner for my brother’s baseball team, and someone had asked me what I do. I responded with all the fun things about being a CNA. My mother interrupted and shared a couple of horror stories about grabby patients, suggestive patients, and how I had gotten peed on that week. 

In the medical field, you need to have these seven qualities that define a great nurse assistant for your patients, the staff and you’re own self-care and well-being. There will be days where you’ll need to change into new scrubs; you’ll come home and realize you had barf on your sleeve, or blood on your shoe. You’ll work with patients that are suggestive, rude, or downright nasty, and it’s up to you to let it roll off your back. 

“Humility is the mother of all virtues; purity, charity, and obedience. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted, and ardent.” – Mother Theresa


When you’re working in the medical field, a general requirement is the ability to put others before yourself at all times. For many of us this is second nature, but for some it takes practice. To practice, humility means to practice being humble and involves putting the needs of others before your own. Practicing humility requires that you do not draw attention to yourself and that you’re able to acknowledge that you’re not always right. The ability to practice humility is vital for all aspects of being a nurse assistant, including when handling patients, working with teammates, and taking directions from superiors. 


Although practicing kindness seems self-explanatory and a no-brainer requirement to most, it can be easily forgotten when on shift. It becomes hard to practice kindness when stress levels and emotions are high. The ability to practice kindness no matter what you’re feeling or going through during your shift will be vital. The old saying rings true, “hurt people hurt people,” and when your bad day or stress carries over to your shift, although usually unintended, it does affect the care of patients and the ability for teamwork to be at it’s best. 

Leadership Skills

When working as a nurse assistant, it can often seem like your role is just as described, as an assistant to the RN. However, a nursing assistant’s role is a vital component to the overall ecosystem. Leadership roles can prove to be beneficial since a natural-born leader or A-type personality is not a common personality trait of most people working as a nurse assistant.

Coming onboard into a new hospital and starting as a nurse assistant myself, I found that during shift change, nursing staff would sit in the break room and exchange information. I found this to be beneficial to the patient as there was a lot of lost patient time. In addition to this (before EMR), the reporting sheets missed vital information and were improperly structured. Rather than keeping that to myself I went home that night, researched and discovered bedside reporting. The nurse assistant is assigned the same roles as several RN’s and does bedside reporting alongside them.

Additionally, I found new reporting sheets and recreated my own at home. The next day I was on shift, I requested a meeting with the director of Nursing and the charge on my floor. I suggested the new implementation and brought the current problems to their attention. They both agreed to run it as a test. The sheets and new practice was welcomed with open arms and was used up until EMR took over. In addition to attributing to solving problems, leadership capabilities can also prove to be beneficial for saving lives. Knowing how to delegate and work as a team is a vital aspect of a well-functioning “floor.” 


Patience is a virtue and a vital quality of any profession that involves working with patients. Things will take longer than you wish them to, especially when you have a million things to do in a certain amount of time, your page is going off, and you wish you could clone yourself so you could help everyone the moment you need help. It can be hard to practice when all this is happening, and although it’s essential to get your tasks done, it’s also important not to rush your patients.

Example: The call light rings, a patient needs to use the restroom (let’s call him Walter). Walter is 80 and trying to get out of bed after knee surgery to use the bathroom but needs your assistance. You were just on your way to give a bath (hands full of towels when he calls); you drop the items off and head to his room and begin to unhook him to assist him out of bed. Walter then starts telling you a story about his daughter.

In this situation, it can be easy to want to rush Walter, not listen to his story, and instead focusing on the clock and how much time you have to get all your tasks done before shift change. Take a moment, breath and practice the ancient virtue of patients. Listen to his story and know that listening to him (while practicing the art of time-management) will not hurry up how fast he can move. Rushing your patients can put them at risk and make them feel unvalued. The moment you walk into a room, nothing else should interrupt that care.


Self-awareness applies to almost all of these seven steps. It recognizes when you aren’t patient, humble, or kind. Then it’s taking that awareness of how you’re feeling and attributing them to something. Are you currently being unkind because you’re stressed out and overwhelmed? Knowing how your feeling and why can help you be more self-aware and change your perception and behavior. If you’re having a hard time practicing self-awareness, you may need to practice self-care first. 

Thirst For Learning 

The more you know, the more you’re able to assist. As a CNA, you don’t have much say in the care plan, but you can attribute as their eyes and ears. Typically a Nurse Assistant is the one that spends the most time with their patients. Thus allowing you to have insight the nurse might not have. You’re the one giving them a bath; you report the urine color, their bowel movements, skin condition, and vitals. Additionally, you know their mood, speech patterns, and sometimes get to know who visits them and who doesn’t. It’s not your role to diagnose, but you are responsible for reporting things they may not have caught or new onsets they may not be aware of.

This, in the past, has allowed me personally to help save a stroke patient. She had the signs of a stroke, I followed procedure, and the stroke was caught in time. You may not be the one to implement care, but having additional knowledge and absorbing information like a sponge will prove to be extremely valuable. 


The ability to manage time is another essential quality of a great nurse assistant. You have a lot to juggle and a lot to accomplish during your shift. Knowing how to manage time while also being patient, kind, and humble can prove to be quite the juggling act. It’s not often something that can be taught and is instead learned over time. Keep in mind; time management isn’t about rushing things; it’s about practicing all the above while being productive. 

If these 7 qualities that define a great Nurse Assistant also define you, then you’d be the perfect fit as a CNA. 

Did we miss any qualities, or do you have anything you would like to add to this list? Let us know below. 

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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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