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Certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, are health care professionals who work under the supervision of practical nurses and registered nurses. CNAs are found working in hospitals, private practices, nursing homes, clinics and in home care agencies. CNAs who work in a hospital's postanesthesia care unit (PACU) -- recovery room -- are responsible for providing the bulk of hands-on care in nursing homes.
A CNA in a PACU is responsible for caring for patients performing as they recover from surgery. These duties include, but are not limited to, helping patients bathe, dress and groom themselves. Nurse assistants are also responsible for helping patients use the bathroom and changing bedpans. If a patient's room needs minor cleaning, such as light dusting or a change in bedsheet, then the nurse assistant will tidy up the room.
After patients recover from surgery, CNAs must ambulate, or exercise, them to get their blood flowing. Nurse assistants will help patients out of bed and assist them in walking around the unit a few times to promote exercise and stimulation. Ambulating patients may also include helping patients walk from their rooms to the examination rooms for any checkups or testing.
Nurse assistants are required to take their patients' vitals frequently throughout their shift so supervising nurses and doctors can track the patients' progress. Vitals may include blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, pupils and temperature. Taking proper and frequent vitals is extremely important since patients are recovering from anesthesia and can take a sudden turn for the worst in a matter of minutes.
CNAs help patients eat and drink, answer any call lights, observe any physical or emotional changes in their patients and report any changes in their patients' conditions to a supervising nurse. Nurse assistants also keep inventory of unit stock and replace items as needed. Depending on the state and hospital, some nurse assistants can perform tests such as EKGs or drawing blood. Some nurses and physicians may allow nurse assistants to assist in minor procedures.