What if it Were You? Nursing Assistant Patient Care

Certified Nursing Assistants Advocating Patient Care

Required Legal Obligations for CNAs

January 5th, 2015

CNA Classes and Training

Due to the scope of work CNAs are responsible for, there are many legal obligations for CNAs that adhere to this profession. While your CNA classes and training coursework will delve deep into the legal requirements and ramifications of working as a CNA, there are several required legal obligations all current and aspiring CNAs must be aware of. During your training CNA classes you should adhere to the legal practicum that will be given during your courses. Before delving into the realm of work as a certified nursing assistant, it’s vital to gain a full understanding what Federal and State laws dictate regarding this profession.

Basic Legal Obligations for CNAs

While the exact laws regarding the scope of practice available to CNAs can vary from state-to-state, there are several universal regulations all certified nursing assistants must follow. To prevent facing legal charges against you, all certified nursing assistants must:

  • Retain a working knowledge of what their state allows regarding work as a CNA
  • Only perform tasks outlined by State and Federal regulations. Even if a CNA is asked to perform a duty outside of the legally defined scope of practice, you should refuse and speak with a direct supervisor.
  • Perform your given tasks and responsibilities exactly as you were taught in training. While you may have an idea of how to alter certain procedures, only stray from standards with the direct consent and supervision of an RN or physician.
  • Maintain necessary continuing education requirements as outlined by your State Nursing Aide Registry.
  • Understand exactly what’s expected of you. If you feel you cannot adhere to these expectations, immediately notify your direct supervisor. Never operate out of your comfort zone or knowledge base.
  • Actively work to do zero harm to patients or residents.
  • Respect the hierarchy of medical staff.

Top Three Legal Definitions CNAs Must Comprehend

Although there is a host of legal descriptions and definitions CNAs must understand, the following are the three most important. By understanding these definitions you’ll reduce the likelihood of accidentally causing harm to the patient or the nursing process.

Once a Certified Nursing Assistant understands all the following legal obligations for their medical profession, then they will be prepared for the career ahead of them. These three items, Acts of Negligence, Acts of Thievery, and Acts of Defamation are explained below:

  1. Acts of Negligence – In the most basic sense, negligence refers to any action a CNA knowingly does that causes physical or emotional harm to the patient. For example, you begin bathing a patient without checking the water temperature, which results in the patient being burned.
  2. Acts of Thievery – While this seems like a “no brainer,” this is one of the most common legal complaints against certified nursing assistants – especially when dealing with mentally incompetent patients who mistake actions as theft. Prevent any accusation of theft by never taking anything that doesn’t directly belong to you. This not only refers to patient belongings, but also to items owned by your employer.
  3. Acts of Defamation – Basically, defamation involves making public statements regarding a person that damages their character/reputation. For example, you provide inaccurate information regarding a patient, which results in improper care. If you are unsure of the validity of information you must give, do not say anything. As a general rule of thumb, never put anything in writing unless directly instructed by your supervisor and only if this information is based upon objective observations or quoted subjected observations.