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CNA performing one of their typical duties — helping someone to stand up.

What does a CNA do?

November 16, 2021

Understanding what a CNA does on a daily basis, the rhythm of a typical CNA shift, is essential when considering caregiving as a new career. For Certified Nursing Assistants, the daily routine can differ drastically depending on shift, so it’s doubly important to understand how your CNA duties might change depending on the hours you’re working and the environment in which you’re providing care.

What’s a typical CNA shift?

  • 8 to 12 hour shifts
  • Day and night shifts available
  • Weekdays and/or weekends

CNAs typically work either 8 or 12 hour shifts. How those shifts split up the day will depend on the long-term care community or agency you work for. You may work weekdays or weekends, and you’ll sometimes work on holidays. Some CNA duties happen at the beginning and end of shift no matter which shift you’re working. Other duties, like assisting with lunch, might only apply to you if you’re working a shift that covers the noon hour.

What CNA duties might I have?

If you’ve been asking yourself, “But what does a CNA do?!” you’ll find your answer here. The timeline of a typical CNA shift below has examples of the types of CNA duties you might encounter throughout the day. 

Beginning of CNA shift

  • Review care plan and medical record.
  • Receive report from off-going staff.
  • Check supplies in rooms.


  • Help with dressing, bathing and toileting.
  • Assist with breakfast.
  • Take and document vital signs, such as weight, temperature or pulse.
  • Respond to call lights.
  • Report any abnormal findings to the supervisor.


  • Provide support during lunch.
  • Respond to call lights.


  • Take a break! 
  • Transport residents to daily activities.
  • Make rounds, providing care as needed.
  • Respond to call lights.
  • Catch up on documentation.


  • Help with dinner.
  • Support bedtime activities, including undressing, toileting and bathing.
  • Take vital signs, such as weight, temperature or pulse.
  • Report any abnormal findings to the supervisor.
  • Respond to call lights.


  • Make rounds, providing care as needed.
  • Respond to call lights.
  • Stock supplies and clean.

End of CNA shift

  • Ensure all paper or electronic documentation is complete.
  • Complete end-of-shift cleaning tasks.
  • Provide report to oncoming staff.

Who will I be working with?

  • Diverse care team
  • People you’re caring for

That’s the best part about a CNA career. Every day you’ll be collaborating with a larger care team of nurses, physical and occupational therapists, physicians, and facility administrative staff. And, of course, you’ll spend most of your time with the wise, funny, interesting folks you’re caring for. Many NextStep CNAs say the relationships they form are the most rewarding part of being a Certified Nursing Assistant. 

Sound like the sort of day you could get used to? Click below to get started on the path to becoming a CNA!

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