7 Challenges Faced By CNAs (Nursing Assistants) in Healthcare

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are in charge of many tasks related to patient care, saving, and bettering the lives of others. However, the conditions and demands of this job raise questions such as what are the challenges of being a CNA? Keep reading as we uncover seven major challenges faced by CNAs.

1. CNAs are Notoriously Underpaid for Their Hard Work

Daily, certified nursing assistants face countless challenges, such as the risk of burnout, dealing with death and grief, caring for dying patients, working in sometimes dangerous conditions, and many more difficult tasks they are faced with. Despite all this, the salary is not so high. It’s this exact reason so many CNAs pick up PRN jobs to earn higher pay.

The average CNA salary in the United States is around $30,000 annually. While it may seem like quite a lot to some, it’s essential to consider just how much certified nursing assistants face and sacrifice for the care of others. 

Read More About How Essential yet Underpaid CNAs Are Here

2. The Road to Becoming a CNA

How can you become a CNA? If you are interested in this career path, rest assured the demand is high and only expected to increase in coming years. However, the road to becoming a CNA is a challenge. Once you have obtained your CNA license or certification, you must also meet further requirements to maintain it. Depending on state, the average time it takes to become a CNA can vary from four to 12 weeks. However, education takes extensive focus and attention during this time, with around 60 hours of mandatory classroom training. During training, many must still work another job while becoming a CNA, which adds more stress to everyday life.

3. Certified Nursing Assistants Dealing with Death and Dying

In healthcare, it’s no question that dealing with illness and death is to be expected from the work. However, that doesn’t make it any less challenging to face daily. Certified nursing assistants not only assist and care for ill patients until their very last moments but also provide comfort and solace to patients’ families and relatives, which can be incredibly challenging to do while already struggling. These situations can be all the more mentally and emotionally impactful if a CNA has formed a connection with a patient or their family. Due to these frequent happenings, it may seem to some certified nursing assistants that they are surrounded by constant loss.

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Stressed out male CNA in surgical scrubs is sitting in hallway
CNAs form strong bonds with patients and experience high rates of grief.

4. Facing and Fighting Healthcare Worker Burnout

Since certified nursing assistants are met with many daily battles and roadblocks that can be physically and mentally draining, there is an increased risk for nursing assistants to face the effects of burnout. Caused by the constant demands of work and sometimes even the lack of taking breaks, burnout is a challenge in itself and can get even worse if gone untreated. More and more nurses have begun to feel the effects of burnout, raising a dire concern that healthcare workers, while taking care of others, must also remember to care for themselves, which can, unfortunately, go neglected when the work is so heavily focused on saving the lives of others. This is another reason per diem shifts are great for CNAs. They get to choose which hospitals or healthcare centers to work in and if it’s unsafe conditions, they can choose jobs at other facilities. No commitment beyond that shift.

5. Extended Work Hours and Time-Consuming Schedules

As the demands for healthcare workers nationwide continue to rise with insufficient certified nursing assistants to fill the vacant CNA jobs, numerous facilities must schedule their CNAs long work hours. This poses a significant risk for the facility, especially if the healthcare workers are being forced to work unhealthy amounts without taking proper breaks. After all, not taking the appropriate time off is one of the countless pathways to experiencing burnout. This is, unfortunately, one of the reasons for certified nursing assistants choosing to leave the workforce altogether or look towards other methods of finding work, such as working per diem shifts.

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6. Incredibly Demanding Work, Physically and Mentally

When asked what do CNAs do? CNAs are constantly on their feet and running around, juggling various physically and mentally demanding tasks. Without our certified nursing assistants, healthcare would be impossible to provide as they are in charge of so many crucial jobs directly related to the health, safety, and comfort of patients, such as:

female CNA walking with elderly patient in nursing home
Nursing assistants are vital professionals in the medical field.

• Assist patients with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, and grooming. 

• Monitor and record vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate. 

• Assist patients in ambulation and mobility, including using wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices. 

• Provide skin care and wound care, including changing dressings. 

• Assist with toileting and elimination needs. 

• Provide emotional and social support for patients. 

• Measure and record intake and output. 

• Obtain specimens for laboratory testing. 

• Monitor and report changes in the patient’s condition. 

• Assist with medical equipment and patient care devices. 

• Administer medications and treatments as directed by the nurse. 

• Prepare and serve meals and snacks. 

• Provide companionship and conversation to patients. 

• Monitor and document the patient’s behavior. 

• Assist with positioning and turning patients. 

• Maintain a clean, safe, and organized environment. 

• Provide patient and family education. 

• Participate in in-service education and continuing education programs. 

• Report any changes in the patient’s condition to the nurse. 

• Participate in the development and implementation of patient care plans. 

• Document patient care and other activities on patient care records. 

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• Answer call lights and respond to patient requests.

7. Conflicts with Coworkers and Patients

Although unfortunate to consider, conflicts tend to arise in any team setting or location where emotions are high. These conflicts can be regarding coworkers, patients, or the relatives of patients. Conflict in healthcare can be challenging, but CNAs must stay professional and work towards a resolution. 

Here are a few tips for managing conflict with coworkers:  

1. Listen and understand the other person’s point of view. This can help you gain insight into the situation and find common ground. 

2. Speak calmly and respectfully. This will help to diffuse the tension and keep the conversation productive. 

3. Offer solutions. If you have ideas for how to solve the problem, share them with your coworker. 

4. Take a break. If the conversation is getting heated, take a few minutes to cool off and come back to the conversation when everyone is calmer. 

5. Seek help. If the conflict persists, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a supervisor or other healthcare professional. By following these tips, CNAs can remain professional and work towards a resolution with their coworkers.

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