8 frustrating things about being a CNA

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

iStockphoto | ThinkStock

Every job in the hospital comes with some familiar frustrations, from cranky patients to catty coworkers to long shifts without enough breaks to down some H2O!

CNAs, who are responsible for so much hands-on care, also have their fair share of unique challenges that make some days on the job a little more…er, complicated.

We asked our Facebook fan CNAs for the most frustrating aspects of their jobs; check out some of their responses below…and sound off with your own in the comments!

8 frustrating things about being a CNA

1. “High patient ratios, feeling underappreciated, but most of all, nurses who won’t pay attention when you tell them something is up! As a CNA who is in nursing school, I have learned to recognize when something is not right, but too often the nurse shrugs me off and the patient suffers when it turns out that I was right in the long run.”

—Amelia Garner Shrader

2. “I have been a CNA for 16 years and I love my job! No, I do not want to be an RN or LPN! The most frustrating part of my job is the government telling our corporations how to staff their floors. Do they not understand that by giving us proper staffing, it would allow us to give our residents exceptional care? It would also minimize CNA burnout, abuse (emotional and physical) and work injuries. Since when is the minimum-possible the best way to go?”

—Kim Cugini

3. “I would say the most frustrating part of my job is seeing extremely sick patients, totally paralyzed and living on ventilators, with no family ever around and being a full code. So unfair for those poor people.”

—Cassie Hagglund

4. “The most frustrating thing about being a CNA is working with other CNAs who are merely there for a paycheck…they show it by how they treat even the sweetest person. I understand and know some residents are tough, but some don’t understand what’s going on and some just can’t do a lot about the problem!”

—Melissa Beeman

5. “Trying to be in no less than three places at one time…STAT!”

—Liz Mellendorf Garascia

6. “I’m a CNA, and I am in my second semester of nursing school, so I know both ends. As a CNA, a very frustrating thing is being extremely busy and having a nurse tell you that a call light is going off. In the amount of time the light was going off, the nurse could have easily answered the light to see what the patient needed. So simple. I help everyone with their call lights; there is no reason to not help out because of the letters after your name! Also, being talked down to is a pet peeve.”

—Samantha Barclay

7. “The pay—22 years and $10.80 an hour. And there is no CNA to RN program…why?”

—Liz Johnston

8. “Feeling helpless that you can’t help every patient; getting emotional for the patients who never have family who visit them; when you work hard and try to do your best, but the other staff aren’t helpful and act like they don’t care for the patients or like you’re bothering them when you ask for help. You’re all they have, so that’s probably the hardest part. It is extremely rewarding, though, when you get patients who truly appreciate you—that makes it all worth it.”

—Nicole Martin Buss

What do you think is the most frustrating thing about being a CNA? What aspects of your job make all the frustrations worthwhile?



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19 Responses to 8 frustrating things about being a CNA

  1. CNAs have such a hard job. It’s awful to think that there are nurses who undervalue the work that CNAs do. It’s even worse when hospitals undervalue these valuable members of the healthcare team. More eyes on the patient can help prevent accidents and ensure that they receive the care they need. CNAs really help with this!

  2. Laurar410

    The most frustrating thing for me is when I come into work and the patients I have weren’t taken care of during the 7am-3pm shift. I work on a damentia floor and some of the patients can be hard to deal with if you approach them the wrong way. But day after day I come in and they arent washed up, still in the clothes I put them in the night before. Or when other aides are in such a rush to get done that they end up hurting on of the patients. I will come in after a couple days off and patients will ask me where the hell I have been and that they missed me because the other aides they had were mean!! SOOOOO NOT COOL!! I treat these people how I would want my parents or grandparents or family to be treated. They deserve to be treated with respect! THE pure laziness I see from other aides daily drives me crazy! If you dont want to be here then go the hell home!!
    Laura R CNA

  3. martoya

    I was a CNA for 18 years before I became an LPN. I have lived through all of these frustrations, so I know exactly where these CNAs are coming from. I used every negative experience with other staff members to build myself into a better nurse. To #7, there is a CNA to RN program, it’s called nursing school. Being certified is becoming a requirement for most nursing programs. You just have to go do it. And while I can’t answer for any other nurse but myself, if I tell my CNA that Rm 200 has their light on, it’s likely because I have my own responsibilities to take care of, meds, assessments, someone else who requires a “nurse” and not a CNA. Otherwise, I’ll be the first one to toilet a resident, help them to bed or get them a drink and save YOU the work! Since I became a nurse, I miss the close interactions and conversations I had with patients when I was a CNA. I am proud to work with so many great CNAs on a daily basis. I couldn’t do my job half as well without you!

    • mscghrn

      Thank you for your comment. It was right on. I have cleaned up my share of messes right along side my Cna’s. I have answered many a call light and do respect my Cna’s . Many of them are my friends on FB. Please remember we can do your job and have our own responsibilities too. I have seen many a Cna become an RN and get very overwhelmed because they didn’t realize just what all we are responsible for. They do need a support network. But remember we need you. The patients need you. You are valuable!

      • lbdotsy

        I agree with you, I can’t say that I know a nurse who doesn’t wear many hats while working. Nurses are: nurses, aides, respiratory therapist, dietitians, housekeepers, psychiatrist, and clerks. Who is really undervalued here?
        I adore my aides, but unfortunately they do not understand the responsibilities we have as a nurse. I remember an aide on our floor, a ver good aide, and I talked her into going to nursing school; she graduated, and received her nursing license, I remember how excited she was, finally she is a nurse, and thinking: wow! I don’t have to work as hard! Well she ate those words really quickly after the first week on the floor as a nurse. Remember this, to all CNA’s; every member on the healthcare team is needed and valued, we all work hard, and we need to work together to stay a team for our patients. Also, just remember, charting, talking to docs, patients, family members, and passing medications doesn’t get done magically, there is someone (nurse) behind that scene.

  4. jessicapurkhiser@gmail.com

    One of the most frustrating things about being a CNA is the lack of support groups and webpages that allow us to connect with other CNA’s and allow our community to see what we really do. Our job is so much more than changing patients. We are the front line for so many voiceless people yet our support system is almost none existent.

    • Annie1318

      I am definitely with you on this. I would love to have a support team for CNAs.

      • fireflys

        sign me up!!! i say we rally get our own union going!

  5. qaqueen

    I was a CNA for nearly as long as I have been a RN. I get it.
    To jessicapurkhiser@gmail.com, the wonderful website allnurses.com has a section dedicated to CNAs. I adore CNAs who understand that they are there because they are truly needed.

    That said, the job of the CNA is to assist the nurse. I am willing to help you with your responsibilties when I have time. Please do not complain if I ask you to answer a light because I am charting or passing meds. If I am on the phone, there is a good chance I am speaking to a doctor, the pharmacy, or the lab.

    CNAs make our patients more comfortable, and allow nurses to do what they need to do.
    The work is hard, but if you are in it for the true benefit, helping people, you are the gem that I want to work with.

  6. Annie1318

    What really bothers me is when somebody asks what I do and I tell them that I am a CNA and they say, “Oh, so you get to wipe butts and change poop?” Many times I have had someone say this to me and it makes me angry. Sure that is part of my job, but there is so much more to it than that.

  7. NurseBrandi

    @Liz Johnston There is a CNA to RN program, it’s called nursing school…? I don’t get your point on this one. Many schools will let you skip the first skills/CNA class d/t you already being a CNA.

    @Samantha Barclay Don’t get me wrong I do help the CNAs when I have the chance, but I’m going to be brutally honest with you here. There are many things I can do as a RN that you can’t do as a CNA, that’s where the letters behind my name matter. I am totally qualified to answer call lights, take people to the bathroom, get them ready for bed, etc. BUT I have my own job to do. You can’t pass meds, do treatments, blood sugars, etc. for me. So it may seem like we’re just pushing off jobs we can easily do on you but that’s your job. We can’t spend our time doing your job because then we have no time to get our own work done.

  8. katfur111

    Amelia Garner Shrader, until you take the test and pass it, STAY IN YOUR LANE. EVERY nurse hates a cna that is in nursing school and feels they have the right to tell a nurse what to do or think they are not doing anything , until u work HANDS ON and not out of a book, STAY IN YOUR LANE. you really don’t know anything until u work hands on. trust me. the nurse you do this to talk smack about you and don’t want you as there cna .. I listen to my cna’s everytime cause they are my EYES AND EARS and I couldn’t do my job well with out them. but give me a no it all cna that is in nursing school and I will pass every time. I NEVER told my nurse wht to do or diagnosed a pt to my nurse, cause guess wht? NURSES DONT DIAGNOSE!! nursing 101. and do you really know wht is going on with that pt u just diagnosed? know , did u get report, talk with family and the doctor, read the test results , Hx, chart. NO! hate nothing more then a no it all cna in nursing school. and everyone I have delt with. when they take the test , if they pass, and start hands on care. they change their game quick. so until u pass that test and work with your healers (hands) then tell someone wht to do with their pt’s

    • bethdaugherty77

      KATFUR111…. Your response demonstrates exactly what CNA’s are talking about…. Shaking my Head and biting my tongue….which believe it or not , we CNA’s do a lot, even though our experience knows hands down that you’re wrong. Sign me,

  9. Jbeanstylc

    For all the RNs and LPNs that commented on this article I would just like to say that I understand that you have your job to do as well as I have a job to do… I understand that you feel the need to defend yourselves, but saying that the letters behind your name is what matters implies that our letters do not. Every person deserves a voice to be heard and believe me the rn’s have that..” RN satisfaction survey” is one of them. I have never seen or heard anyone ask what the CNA’s think. At my job my departments CNA’s splint, put in and take out iv’s, ekgs, blood draws, clean rooms, transport PTs, vitals, comfort you if you are scared, wipe your tears and tuck you in. I have had PTs family members hug and thank me after seeing me thumping away on their loved ones chest. I do it because I care. Yes you become an RN and you make more money. Of course you should you went through school a whole heck of a lot longer then I did. But never imply that your letters mean more because in the end I do just as much as you and sometimes more. Making more money doesn’t make you a better person it’s what’s inside that counts.

  10. fireflys

    just came across this post have to comment most frustrating thing of my very important job as a cna is above all the pay !!! for the excessive amount of work and responsiblities we have as c.n.a.’s its terrible they dont start us off at least 20.00 hr.! because we earned it! and i do also agree with alot of the other posts as well we need to organize ourselfs a union !!! as c.n.a.’s!!!! thanks for letting me post! jean cna since 2006

  11. Joyce Waller

    It almost makes me dislike my job the way some nurses treat me sometimes….When I become a Nurse I vow to treat everyone that’s apart of the Healthcare team with respect and dignity.

    • kelly45789

      Here is a way to at least ease the burden or pain. Go to this website and sign the petition. This will limit CNAs to 8 patients a piece in all Hospital, Nursing homes, Rehab, and LTAC facilities in every state. If we can get enough signatures, we can make a difference for both us and our patients. I am tired of the complaints, and not being able to do something about it. It is now time for action…Sign this petition, and let our voices be heard….


  12. rose a.

    I concur ratio per cna to patient is high load…in long term care.
    Compared to other settings long tern care seems to be the hardest.
    I have been a CNA / Med Tech and medical assistant.
    I highly doubt if I can keep up with SNF now that I am older.
    I now own my own business but I look back to rewarding times with all of my patients.
    I took care of myself and my patients to the best of my ability.
    I never got sick a day in all my years of CNA. Right nutrition, 8 hours of sleep and all shots up to date.
    However there was not much room for anything else especially a social life.
    To all CNAs and medical staff I tip my hat to all of you for handling a very challenging job.

  13. castironlady

    I work as an ortho/trauma nursing assistant in a hospital. I have up to 22 patients a night, by myself. The nurses scheduled to work make the difference whether or not I can walk without pain in the morning. I understand they have a ton of work but when they are sitting in a circle at the nurses station gabbing or reading their kindles or shopping on Amazon and I am getting 22 sets of vitals, ice, emptying drains, you would think they’d help. Especially when there are call lights going off. Then there are the nurses who can’t place a bedpan and the bed ends up soaked, making double work for me. Just leaves me scratching my head wondering why some help and some won’t. And don’t get me started on the pay. I am working as hard as I can and still struggling to keep the lights on and the kids fed. That should not be.