Nursing assistants (NA) have been essential members on healthcare teams throughout the COVID-19 crisis. And while the pandemic continues to spread around the world, National Nursing Assistants Day on June 18 is timed to thank nursing assistants for the care they provide.

For 43 years, the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants has sponsored an entire week to celebrate those who choose this career. This year, that week runs from June 18 to 25 and is being marked as “Celebrate in Place” as many events have moved away from in-person formats.

According to Genevieve Gipson, RN, Med, RNC, and director of the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, the theme for the week is kindness. NAs are encouraged to focus on a different aspect of kindness throughout the week and focus on events and projects that can continue to have an impact over the course of the year.

The National Association of Health Care Assistants seeks to elevate and promote the professional NA career . Working on teams and with other healthcare providers delivers more consistent and better patient care and nursing assistants are part of the team.

Nursing assistants and certified nursing assistants perform the routine patient care that often allows opportunities to talk with patients and learn more about them. Whether a patient is in a long-term care facility and sees a nursing assistant almost daily or in a short-term hospital stay and only has brief interactions, NAs and CNAs can make an enormous impact on the patient’s general care. By getting to know a patient and listening to them, nursing assistants can pick up on subtle physical or emotional changes or on preferences that could help fine tune such necessities as a preferred meal plan or understand family relationships.

NAs work under the supervision of registered professional nurses and perform duties that can range from basic patient care including bathing, feeding, toileting, grooming, dressing, and answering patient calls for help. They are generally responsible for things that help keep patients comfortable such as changing linens or checking bandages.

NAs can increase their training and competency with certification. Each state determines its own certification requirements, so plan to look into this additional step in whichever state you plan to practice. The extra certification can take a couple of months to complete, but offers additional skills that will be used every day.

The impact of NA-provided patient care can’t be understated. Because of their close interaction, they often help patients who are lonely and can comfort those who may need companionship. During the COVID-19 crisis, many facilities restricted visitors and so healthcare teams were the only people many patients could see for months. Having a friendly person to talk with calms nerves, staves off loneliness, and provides a much-needed human connection.

Celebrate National Nursing Assistants Day and National Nursing Assistants Week and be proud of the much appreciated care you provide.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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