Any job in the healthcare field can be physically and emotionally demanding.

Unlike popular TV shows such as House or Grey’s Anatomy, working in the medical field involves much more than following a dramatic storyline (although some workdays might be filled with drama)!

One of the most challenging and stressful medical jobs is working as a CNA.

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Why is Being a CNA So Hard?

Being a CNA is hard because they have lots of responsibilities. They are expected to keep tight schedules while working on their feet all day. This, coupled with low pay and not wide-enough recognition, are just some of the things that make working as a nursing assistant difficult.

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What is a Certified Nursing Assistant?

nurse aide helping elderly patient transport

A CNA is also known as a certified nursing assistant. CNA’s are always on the hospital, and clinic floors and are a regular part of the 24/7 staff employed. CNA’s can work in a variety of settings, including clinics, private doctor’s offices, major hospitals, and in hospice or at home.

What Does a CNA Do?

Here are some of the duties and responsibilities nursing assistants are responsible for:

  • Answer call lights
  • Relay messages
  • Feed patients
  • Dress patients
  • Assist in showers
  • Change diapers and chucks
  • Responsible for bedding
  • Record food intake and other medical information
  • Record vital signs
  • Document and relay changes in patient status

These responsibilities can be a lot to do for even one person. Unfortunately, as a CNA, you will be expected to provide all these services to not just one, but likely 5-10 patients. Maybe even more, depending on how busy your clinic is.

CNA’s must be licensed, meaning if they fail to complete their duties or make a mistake, they can be held liable for negligence and possible lawsuits. This adds another layer of stress to a CNA’s duties. 

How Much Does a CNA Make?

CNA’s are responsible for an incredible amount of duties, and without them, hospitals and clinics cannot function properly.

However, even with all the responsibilities, CNA’s do not make as much money as you would think. This is especially true compared to a licensed practical nurse (LPN also called a licensed vocational nurse), a registered nurse (RN), or a medical doctor.

CNA’s make anywhere between $22,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on the state they live in. However, as of 2019, the livable wage in the United States is $68,808, meaning CNAs make less than a living wage.

What Makes the Job Difficult?

Although the pay might be lower than average, many people enjoy the challenges and workflow of being a CNA.

No two days are the same, and CNAs are able to refine their skills and interact with patients on a daily basis.

However, certain factors cause a CNA’s job to be difficult.

1. Physical Requirements

In order to be a CNA, you have to stand on your feet all day like any other medical profession. Being on your feet all day can cause various issues, including:

  • Back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Fatigue
  • Bunions
  • Callouses

In addition to being on their feet all day like other medical professionals, CNA’s also have to work providing physical assistance to patients.

This includes lifting patients to dress them, feed them, or change their chucks and diapers.

CNA’s have to also assist patients to and from wheelchairs, beds, and gurneys, which can be difficult, especially in a cramped, home-like setting.

2. Dealing with Patients

Like other medical professionals, CNA’s have to deal with a variety of patients, which can include the elderly and psychiatric patients.

These patients can sometimes grow agitated or violent, leading to added stress for CNA’s that must have more one-on-one interaction with them than a regular medical provider would.

Because these patients must be dressed, fed, and have their activities of daily living completed, CNA’s can’t simply refuse to care for a patient, making their jobs difficult when dealing with difficult patients.

The risk of harm is a genuine concern for CNAs, especially those who work in the emergency room or the mental health field.

Basic tasks done through direct patient care can lead to physical and verbal abuse from patients. It’s one of the reasons why being a CNA is a dangerous job.

3. Emotional Toll

Finally, like all other professionals, being a CNA can have an emotional toll.

Growing close to patients, having to see them suffer or possibly pass away, and being expected to still complete your work duties can be extremely difficult.

On top of this, CNAs must constantly follow directions from medical providers and nurses, although they are typically expected to have their own routine for caring for patients.

Overall, the stress of the job can pose an emotional toll.

How can CNA’s Improve their Work Life?

a nurse aide helping patient in wheelchair

As a CNA, there are many things you can do to make your job easier. For starters, don’t be afraid to ask for help from other staff, such as RNs and LVNs.

They are trained to do the same duties as you and can provide a helping hand if your patient load is heavy.

You should always ask for assistance lifting patients that are too heavy and take breaks as needed to prevent physical issues from arising.

CNA’s can also be offered supervisory or promotional positions, which can help give you a pay boost. Finally, you can use professional therapy services (such as this one) to help with work stress.

Rewarding Careers as CNA’s

Being a CNA can be difficult. However, it’s a rewarding experience that allows you to interact with patients and play a valuable role in a hospital or clinic.

If you’re ready to tackle the role of a CNA, look at our website for schools to get licensed or at our job postings for new career options!

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Frequently Asked Questions

The hardest parts of being a CNA is the low pay and how physically demanding the job is. For many jobs patients have to be assisted with turning or getting out of bed. This part of the job can eventually take a toll on the CNA’s body.

Any job in the healthcare field tends to be more stressful than most. CNA work is no exception. It’s a stressful job because of the low pay and how dangerous the work can be due to combative patients and exposure to bodily fluids and pathogens.

Here are some of the places and fields you can find CNAs working in.

  • Nursing Home
  • Hospital Setting
  • Home Health
  • Hospice Care
  • Long Term Care Facility (LTACs)

CNAs work with other members of the multidisciplinary team. This includes nurses (RNs and LPNs), doctors, physical therapists, registered dieticians,

Being a CNA is a hard job because it’s emotionally stressful and can be dangerous. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a job that is not paid well and can be underappreciated in the healthcare field.

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