What’s the Hardest Task as a CNA?

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Are you looking to figure out what the most challenging part of being a CNA is? Are you struggling to determine if being a CNA is right for you? If either of these questions is true, then you have come to the right place.

Being a CNA is a job that can be challenging and rewarding. It has several benefits, which we will touch on later in the article. For several individuals, these rewards outweigh the not-so-satisfying activities that you may be forced to partake in.

You have a right to understand not only the good parts of being a CNA but the bad ones as well. All you have to do is keep reading to find that information and much more.

How Hard is Being a CNA?How Hard is Being a CNA?

We would be lying if we said that being a CNA was easy. Is it hard to be a CNA? Yes. However, is it a lucrative and rewarding experience? Yes. Further in this article, you will read about an abundance of challenges that CNAs face. Yet if you are a person who is caring and hardworking, you will be able to endure it all.

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of CNAs?

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of CNAs?

A certified nursing assistant plays a significant role within the healthcare ecosystem. This individual has an abundance of responsibilities and tasks that make other healthcare professionals’ lives easier and give them the ability to focus on their jobs. A state’s nursing practice acts to regulate the functions of a CNA.

Licensed nurses often supervise CNAs. These individuals can be RNs or even nurse practitioners. Your reporting structure will ultimately depend on the type of facility that you choose to work in. However, your work will be given and critiqued by higher-level nurses. A CNA is considered an entry-level position that can be given to individuals who have completed a high school diploma and completed a CNA education program.

CNAs have the ability to work in a variety of locations. These may include places like

  • Hospitals
  • Specialized Clinics and Doctor’s offices
  • Nursing facilities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Home health

With all that being said, you may be wondering what it is that a CNA does. However, they are trained in a variety of areas to perform optimal patient care. The list below represents the typical tasks for CNAs.

Patient Reporting

Outside of doing typical charting on patients, CNAs also serve as the frontline for reporting irregularities back to the nursing team as they spend the most time with the patient. When doing traditional charting on a patient, you will need to log a patient’s vitals and any weird occurrences or spikes in numbers.

Companionship/ Emotional support

Certified nursing assistant duties in a hospital or senior facility will naturally include providing emotional support to patients. Though CNAs aren’t therapists, it is essential to remember that not everyone has a family to call and talk to them. A little kindness will often go a long way. Listening to a patient may aid in relieving anxiety.

Provide Activities of Daily Living

Activities of daily living are things that individuals must do every day to maintain their lives. This can include things like hygiene, mobility, dressing, and grooming. However, these are only a sample of the tasks. Think about all of the things that you do for yourself regularly. These are things that the CNA will help with throughout their day. These activities may also include providing companionship to patients who may not have a family.

Hygiene Maintenance

One primary responsibility of CNAs is shaving, bathing, and grooming patients. This may include brushing an individual’s teeth, shaving their facial hair as needed, and even brushing their hair. This may also include washing a patient’s body. One hard part of grooming a patient may be changing their diapers or cleaning up their human waste.

Pass Medications to Patients

A CNA is trusted to administer patient medications consistently. However, for some patients, a CNA may not be allowed to administer all their medication. This is true for patients that are the recipients of injections or shots. In some places, certified nursing assistants will need additional certifications or medical training to be able to perform this task.

What Tasks Can a CNA Not Do?

What Tasks Can a CNA Not Do?

Now that you know what a CNA can do, you must know what you can’t do as well. There are several tasks that you may think CNAs do that they ultimately cannot. These tasks can also vary by the state that you are in. Some states will provide CNAs with more privileges depending on where they become licensed. The duties they are not authorized to do include the following:

  • Give shots or injections – This includes giving patients insulin or any other medicine that requires shots.
  • Perform wound care
  • Remove or insert catheters
  • Perform tube feedings
  • Bowel evacuation

Though these are a few items that CNAs can’t do, other tasks they are prohibited from performing will vary by state.

What is the Hardest Part of Being a CNA?

What is the Hardest Part of Being a CNA?

Several areas may be problematic for a CNA, but the emotional turmoil may be the hardest to handle. Think about it. One of the hardest things you can do is watch a person’s condition worsen and not be able to do anything about it. As a CNA, this often happens, depending on the environment you choose to work in.

You will likely develop a rapport with different patients. You will not only learn about their needs as a patient but learn about them as a person. It can be hard when patients get a hard diagnosis or they get transferred to different facilities.

Quite often, for older patients, CNAs will watch them give up or hear them talk about giving up rather than fighting for their family to remain in a nursing home. This will ultimately lead to a patient expiration. Some CNAs may need to get mentally prepared to be around dead bodies.

Patients will also share information about themselves, good and bad. Working as a CNA can be highly challenging to individuals who are not used to seeing this much pain and, at times, suffering. This can also be hard after you have been working with someone for a long time. It is a sad reality when a patient’s case worsens, or an elder gives up on fighting for their life.

What are the Other Challenges of Being a CNA?

What are the Other Challenges of Being a CNA?

Outside of the emotional challenges which come with being a CNA, several other areas may be challenging and hard for CNAs to get used to. These challenges include a number of things, including patient abuse and even internal issues within facilities.

Patient Abuse

As a CNA, it is not unlikely that within your career, you will encounter difficult patients. These patients may be young or old. You need to protect yourself. However, you should never hit a patient. Some CNAs have been kicked, punched, or even spit on. Older patients who are no longer in their right mind or suffering from dementia may be difficult to work with and times recite opinions you may disagree with

Low Pay

Depending on your location, pay may be an issue for some individuals. The tasks that CNAs are given reflect physically demanding, and at times disgusting; however, they are paid the least. Other tasks which should aid in boosting their pay include things like lifting patients, changing diapers, and cleaning up other bodily fluids.

Lack of Respect

Many times CNA are not respected. People feel that they aren’t intelligent because they are not nurses or someone on a higher level. You will often find some doctors or nurses who may feel that the position is simply cheap labor and call on them to do the undesirable tasks that they don’t want to.

Inadequate Staffing

Inadequate staffing is a major issue within the healthcare industry. The need for nurses continues to rise each day and can be seen firsthand in medical facilities. At short-staffed facilities, CNAs will often find themselves assigned more patients than they can handle. Their days will get longer depending on the workload that they need to have completed before the night is over.

Physically Demanding

There is certainly a physical component that goes along with being a CNA. CNAs will often spend long hours walking and standing on their feet. They actively aid in lifting patients alone and with the help of others for placement in wheelchairs, on their beds, and even assist them with walking. Another thing to consider is the long hours and the flexibility which may be needed when someone misses a shift.


Like any job, being a CNA can be overwhelming. CNAs are susceptible to burnout but can avoid this if they properly take care of themselves. If you are truly passionate about your work, being a CNA can be an enriching experience.

Communication Issues

One major challenge in working as a CNA can be the lack of communication or limited communication between staff within a facility. This can also manifest in the form of communication issues with the patient. It is vital to ensure that all messaging to the patient and the patient’s family is accurate and consistent to receive the care they deserve.

Is Being a CNA Worth It?

Is Being a CNA Worth It?

After reading through all of the information, are you still ready to take the leap of faith into healthcare? If your answer is no, don’t give up just yet. Being a CNA is still worth it. There are several benefits available to you if you want to become a CNA.


A CNA has the opportunity to make varying amounts of pay. Though the national average may be lower than expected, this average does not include overtime and the possibility of picking up shifts. This is likely always an option, no matter what facility you are in due to healthcare shortages. Also, depending on your experience, your earnings have the potential to increase from the amount you may originally start at.

Healthcare Exposure

There are several specializations that CNAs may work in, which can give them exposure to different areas of healthcare. For example, it takes a strong CNA mentally and physically to deal with being a psychiatric facility CNA. However, this may be beneficial to that individual’s career choice in the near future. You will easily begin to learn more about what other professions are responsible for and where everyone falls within the healthcare spectrum.

Short Training Time

One major advantage to becoming a CNA is that it does not take long. Students can become certified nursing assistants within four weeks if they choose the right program. If you are in need of a job and your funds are limited, becoming a CNA is a great place to start. There are opportunities for advancement, and trainings are very affordable.

Satisfaction of Helping Others

One benefit that the profession gives is the satisfaction of helping others. If you enjoy caring for people and are an extrovert who loves interacting with people, this is the perfect profession for you—many times, helping patients will provide a life’s purpose for CNAs.

Early Start to WorkForce

Being a CNA doesn’t have to be a profession that you wait until you are older to do. You also have the ability, in some places, to become a CNA while in high school. In most places, the youngest age that a person can be when becoming a CNA is 16. Starting early allows you to gain exposure to various parts of the hospital.

Lifelong Bonds

Being a CNA is an extremely social job. You will have to liaise with patients, staff, patient families, doctors, and more. Facilities that allow CNAs to work with the same patients each day will aid them in forming bonds that can be hard to break. Often, older patients will even remind workers of family members or grandparents, further solidifying the bond individuals may have. These bonds make the job more bearable and worthwhile.

Hot Job Market

A CNA is a profession that is likely not going anywhere. It is in constant demand and continues to grow each day.  There are always positions available in a variety of realms within healthcare, no matter when you start. CNAs can have the ability to quit a job one day and have a new one by the next.

Wrapping Things Up: What’s the Hardest Task as a CNA?

Overall being a CNA is hard. They handle an abundance of tasks on a regular basis and are at the forefront of patient care no matter what type of facility they work in. A CNA will perform several important tasks a day, but none will be as hard as the emotional turmoil that comes with being a CNA and watching people you have grown to love and care about.

However, this is just one task that may be hard. CNAs perform a number of activities that can make their jobs challenging. These can include things like cleaning up patient waste or feces, the increased physical demand of the position, and even inadequate staffing. Yet, none of these CNA duties and responsibilities should stop you from working in the field.

Certified nursing assistant jobs can be extremely rewarding and provide workers a sense of purpose in their own lives. This incentive is what keeps some CNAs going and able to do their job well.

If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other medical school tips here.

Here are some other interesting medical school tips:

> Which CNA Jobs Pay the Most?

> CMA vs. CNA: What’s the Difference?

> What is Nursing School Like?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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