What working as a nurse’s aide taught me

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Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve been pretty certain of my calling to be a nurse. In high school, I made sure to take all of the right science courses as electives so I could apply to nursing school at the local college.

And, in order to be absolutely certain that nursing was for me, I enrolled in a 6-week nursing assistant course at the local vo-tech school that summer. We were instructed by a veteran RN and most of us were hired by the local hospital. Having already been accepted into the 2-year RN program at the local college gave me a leg up.

Like all nursing assistants of the time, my job was to be wherever I was needed in the hospital on my 8-hour shifts. The uniform was a pink dress, beige stockings and white Clinic shoes! The only jewelry allowed was a watch and a plain wedding band if you were married.

We got report along with the nurses and were given patient assignments, as well as general floor tasks such as filling water pitchers, serving and clearing meal trays, etc.

But the best part was learning from the nurses. On every unit, there is usually at least one RN who is approachable.  These were my first mentors. They were the ones who knew stuff and shared it with others. They were trusted by the docs and respected by management. Over the course of my career, I’ve tried to be that person for students and others.

Today, the nurse’s aide has transitioned to more technical skills, and their certifications and titles have changed to reflect this. In my day, the portable blood sugar and ACT testing machines didn’t exist and blood was drawn only by a lab tech or RN. Today’s nursing assistants are a vital part of a unit’s strength in its staffing. Many times I have made the decision to keep my regular nursing assistant, rather than to give her up for an RN who doesn’t know the unit.

Having started at the bottom of the ladder, I’ve pretty much done it all. I believe very strongly that no one should ever ask or expect another person to do what they themselves are not willing to do.

I believe it’s always important to keep learning new skills and the principles that go with them, and to be the kind of person who’s willing to share hard-earned knowledge with others. I believe in helping others overcome their fears and anxieties about trying something new, and always reminding yourself AND others that the only stupid question is the one you do NOT ask!

The truth is that the best way to get good help is to teach them how to be all they can be!

Some of the best lessons are learned from past mistakes. The error of the past is the wisdom of the future (Dale Turner).

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Nurse Rene

Nurse Rene has been an RN since 1978; CCRN since 1989 and attained a BSN in 2010. She has worked in virtually every specialty from Neonatology to Neurosurgery and is a Member of Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society with a particular interest in helping students and new grads develop to their full potential. She's been married for 33 years and has a keen interest in history and in current issues as nursing continues to develop as a Real Profession. When not spoiling the grandchildren, she enjoys sewing, cooking, kayaking, camping and travel. She likes all music which does not hurt her ears, watching NCIS, Leverage, Top Gear and Criminal Minds and reads books written by Clive Cussler, Miss Manners, Erma Bombeck and Tom Clancy. She enjoys collecting Quotations for use in her writings.

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2 Responses to What working as a nurse’s aide taught me

  1. shawn

    I have been Rn for 25 yrs. Started as CNA @ age 17. Was a 6 week class that I could not wait to go to after I got out of school during the day, which I hated. Always knew I wanted to be a nurse, but likelihood of college for me and siblings was grim, due to single parent. Planned to join Air Force, was offered financial support for beauty school. I finished, but I hated it! Worked as CNA night shift with one RN and sometimes another CNA. The RN (Laura) had such a positive learning experience and compassionate heart..she confirmed and validated who I was and where I wanted to be. I later became LVN then RN. CNA can be most significant assistance for entire unit if their heart is in it. I learned so much as full time CNA, I transitioned to other roles fairly easily. I love the CNA’s and do not allow anyone to mistreat them as you see so often. I would not ask CNA to do something that I wouldn’t do myself and mostly worked together to benefit patient care and staff. We need to have a day just to recognize them alone, I have worked with many who are awesome and encourage them to continue education if possible for them. I would like to say thank you and I do appreciate you CNA’s out there. Usually they do not get recognition deserved! :~))

  2. bonijack

    I am now the DON at the facility I have worked for for 7 years. I started out as a CNA many years ago and was suprised at how much I loved it. I learned that the best nurses out there are sometimes the ones that have started out as a CNA. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of nurses that didn’t that are excellent at thier job. However, you can really tell the ones that have been a CNA.

    I have been known to work the floor as a CNA on occasion when short, Volunteer quicker to assist as I know what is needed rather than asking as some need to.