Nursing assistants are essential members of any healthcare team and this week’s National  Nursing Assistants Week is a time to honor the work they do.

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) care for patients by helping them with their daily tasks of living, ensuring their comfort, and keeping an eye on any changes in behavior or physical health. Because they spend quite a lot of time with patients, they are able to notice changes they can quickly report to the care team.

National Nursing Assistants Week begins on June 16 with National Career Nurse Assistant’s Day and launches a week of celebration to honor nursing assistants and to heighten awareness about this career path.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for nursing assistants is estimated to grow at about 8 percent annually between 2020 and 2030. But as the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to cause unpredictable fluctuations in patients who are receiving care in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, personal homes, or long-term care facilities, the need for qualified CNAs remains strong.

A day in this career path is dynamic and never slow. The job involves a lot of physical activity, some of it strenuous, and interaction with many patients as they provide various hands-on care and support. Nursing assistants may spend time with a patient to help them with what they need, to assist with any daily tasks, to meet family members, and to learn a little more about the person behind the patient. With that kind of casual connection, professionals in this role have the ability to make a positive impact on the patient’s stay and recovery process.

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Many nursing assistants enjoy their work and remain in the role throughout their careers. As with any career, over time, career nursing assistants become the experts on varied aspects of healthcare and relationships with patients. They become the role models and mentors for the new nursing assistants and offer advice and guidance that is only gained through on-the-job experience. And long-term employees provide a sense of security to patients who enjoy seeing interacting with familiar faces–especially when they are in a long-term care facility or if they are returning to facilities because of recurring health issues.

CNAs also have first-hand experience of how this specialty is so essential to patient care and how improvements in the field help both workers and patients thrive. CNAs can become workplace advocates for their role and their patients by proposing advances in workflows for the CNA team. They may also choose to share their work stories with a broader audience–even throughout the state or federal government–and advocate for practice improvements or better policies to help patients and staff alike.

Joining a professional organization like the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA) or the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants is an excellent way to connect with others in the field and who share a passion for patient care. With so much of the healthcare system depending on the work of nursing assistants, this week is an excellent time to let people know about this career path.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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