Acute Care Offers Nursing Assistants More Responsibility

  • Article by: Nancy Crotti
  • Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • June 2, 2010 - 4:08 PM

Acute-care nursing assistants build on their education and experience as nursing assistants to work as part of a multidisciplinary team. Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) may take a course in acute-care nursing assistance at Century College in White Bear Lake ( or at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (

"The traditional nursing assistant course is primarily designed for long-term care," explains Catherine Johnson, a nurse educator at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare ( and an instructor at Century College. "This course offers them exposure to comprehensive information and advanced procedural skills that are offered in acute-care facilities, clinics, home healthcare agencies and other facilities."

Clinical Experience And Training

The four-week course at Century combines lectures and clinical experiences at Gillette and at Regions Hospital in St. Paul ( Students are trained in a number of techniques, such as intermittent catheterization, tube feeding, skin care, specimen collection, infection prevention and safe handling of patients with special needs.

"Working in a hospital is far different from long-term care," Johnson says. "The acute-care CNA has to function harmoniously as an intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary team member. We teach the nursing assistant about the various departments in a hospital, how they form the patient care team and the CNAs role as a member of that team."

Students are also taught legal issues about their scope of practice, the Nurse Practice Act and delegation. They may also work in assisted-living facilities, group homes and as personal-care attendants in clients' homes and may earn $10 to $17 an hour.

Having What It Takes

"It takes a special person to work in acute care," Johnson says. "Motivation, flexibility, good communication and being a team player are important."

Joanne Godbout was a dislocated worker and former licensed day-care provider who had always been interested in nursing. "I decided to take the acute-care nursing skills classes because they would give me an edge," says Godbout, who now works at Gillette. "I knew I wanted to work in a hospital and didn't have a lot of experience."

The course helped her understand why medical professionals do certain procedures, how the body works and how to be a better assistant to a doctor or nurse.

"A lot of what we do as a nursing assistant is being there for the patient and consoling them and helping them through the procedure," Godbout adds. "Sometimes we hold hands. Sometimes we breathe with our patients through difficult procedures when they're in pain. Sometimes we explain what's happening. Sometimes we just hold needles and sponges and get supplies. And it's all so that the patient has the best care and the best experience that we can give them."

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