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The Role of Communication

Communication is the exchange of information with other people. As a certified nursing assistant (CNA) communication with your patients and staff is critical.

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We use more then words to communicate with each other. Communication can be done with signs and symbols like words, or pictures. How well certified nursing assistant (CNA) communicates with those around them often determines how successful they will be in their job.

 Using verbal and nonverbal communication
Most of us understand verbal communication as something expressed in words,sounds or something in writing. We often forget that we are also communicating by nonverbal means. Our body language can speak very loudly. As a certified nursing assistant it is important to pay attention to how you are expressing yourself in all areas. How you stand or sit, the look on your face, a tapping of your foot can communicate things such as: anger, impatience, frustration, or joy, sympathy and concern. In your career as a certified nursing assistant you will, at one time or another, experience all these feeling and many more. It is important that negative emotions not express themselves in a nonverbal way to your patients or other staff members.


As a certified nursing assistant (CNA) you will learn of any disabilities or deficits that your patients may have. Some patients may have hearing or sight impairments that limit their ability to receive messages. 

If your patient has difficulty hearing there are a number of things you can do:

  • Speak more slowly then you would with others that have good hearing. 
  • Speak clearly and don’t whisper or mumble. 
  • Don’t have food or gum in your mouth when you speak. 
  • People that are hearing impaired tend to watch your lips move to help then understand what is being said. 
  • If you are chewing while you are talking it is hard for them to read your lips. 
  • As a certified nursing assistant you will also be taught about hearing aide, how to change the batteries, clean them and how to help patients to insert them in their ears. 
  • Always encourage a patient to use their hearing aide.

The job of a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is to find ways to communicate with even the most difficult patient. There are a few helpful tips to remember when trying to communicate with someone. 

  • Don’t use medical terminology when speaking to a patient. 
  • Talk to them in simple everyday words, as if talking to a friend. Sometimes certified nursing assistants forget that not everyone has medical training. 
  • Don’t use slang words. Words that come from one generation are not always understood by another generation. 
  • Be sure to say what you mean and mean what you say. In other words, explain what you are doing or when you will be doing it and how you will be doing it. Giving accurate information to your patients is important. If they don’t understand what is going on they can become agitated and that makes care hard to give. 
  • You must carry out your commitments. If you tell a patient you are going to do something then you should carry that commitment out. If you do not, you need to explain to the patient why you could not. If a patient begins to doubt your word then care becomes harder to give.


A very important part of a certified nursing assistant’s job is constantly assessing the patient. Patients don’t always express themselves verbally. You may ask them how they are feeling and many times they will say they feel fine when they do not. As you get to know the patients in your charge you will begin to know many nonverbal things about them. You hear how their breathing sounds and can use your sense of hearing to assess if their breathing doesn’t sound normal for them. You can use
your sense of touch to tell if your patient feels hotter or colder then usual. Even your sense of smell can tell you if something has changed with a patient. Of course using our eyesight is our biggest asset in observing how our patients are doing. Watch for any changes in skin color, facial expressions (such as an expression of pain) when a patient is moving or breathing and any other condition that was not present the last time you observed the patient.

Certified nursing assistants (cna) spend the most time with patients and are usually the first ones to spot a change in a patient’s condition. The roll of a certified nursing assistant in the health and wellbeing of patients is beyond measure. Be proud of the great work you do!
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